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The Cinema Writings of 

Translated by IVOR MONTAGU 
Introduction by LEWIS JACOBS 



Callard House 

74a Regent Street 

London Wi 

Made and Printed by the Replika Process in Great Britain 

by Lund Humphries & Co Ltd 

London and Bradford 




Contents — Film Technique 

(A separate table of contents for FILM 
ACTING appears at the beginning of that 
volume. ) 
Introduction by Lewis Jacobs iii 

Introduction to the German Edition xiii 

I. The Film Scenario and Its Theory 

foreword 1 

part i. the scenario 3 

The meaning of the "shooting-script"— The 
construction of the scenario— The theme— The 
action- treatment of the theme— Conclusion. 


The simplest specific methods of shooting- 
Method of treatment of the material: struc- 
tural editing— Editing of the scene— Editing 
of the sequence— Editing of the Scenario- 
Editing as an instrument of impression: rela- 
tional editing. 

II. Film Director and Film Material 

part i. the peculiarities of film 

material 51 

The film and the theatre— The methods of the 
film— Film and reality— Filmic space and time 
—The material of films— Analysis— Editing: 
the logic of filmic analysis— The necessity to 
interfere with movement— Organisation of the 
material to be shot— Arranging setups— The 
organisation of chance material— Filmic form 
—The technique of directorial work. 


The director and the scenarist— The environ- 
ment of the film— The characters in the envir- 


onment— The establishment of the rhythm of 
the film. 

Two kinds of production— The film actor and 
the film type— Planning the acting of the film 
type— The ensemble— Expressive movement- 
Expressive objects— The director as creator 
of the ensemble. 


The actor and the filmic image— The actor 
and light. 

MAN 120 
The cameraman and the camera— The camera 
and its viewpoint— The shooting of movement 
—The camera compels the spectator to see as 
the director wishes— The shaping of the com- 
position—The laboratory— Collectivism : the 
basis of film-work. 

III. Types Instead of Actors 137 

IV. Close-ups in Time 146 
v. asynchronism as a principle of sound 

Film 155 

VI. Rhythmic Problems in My First Sound 

Film 166 

VII. Notes and Appendices 




The numerals in the text refer to Appendix B. 


There are few experiences more important in 
the education of a newcomer to motion pic- 
tures than the discovery of V. I. Pudovkin's 
Film Technique and Film Acting. No more valuable 
manuals of the practice and theory of film making have 
been written than these two handbooks by the notable 
Soviet director. So sound are their points of view, so 
valid their tenets, so revelatory their analyses, that they 
remain today, twenty years after their initial appear- 
ance, the foremost books of their kind. 

First published abroad in 1929 and 1933 respectively, 
Film Technique and Film Acting brought to the art of 
film making a code of principles and a rationale that 
marked the medium's analytic "coming of age." Until 
their publication, the motion picture maker had to eke 
out on his own any intellectual or artistic considera- 
tions of film craft. No explicit body of principles existed 
upon which the film maker could draw with confidence. 
Film technique was a more or less hit or miss affair 
that existed in a kind of fragmentary state which, in 
the main, leaned heavily upon theatrical methods. 

These pioneering books made clear at once that 
movie making need no longer flounder for a methodol- 
ogy or for its own standards. They elucidated what 



were the fundamentals of film art and defined the 
singular process of expression that distinguished it 
from all other media. Now film theory and practice 
could be attacked with greater assurance and efficiency. 
The film maker now had at his disposal a consolidated 
and concrete source of information and knowledge that 
could shorten his own creative development. It is not 
surprising therefore that these books soon became the 
"bibles" for film artists. 

Film Technique, in particular, had an acute and im- 
mediate effect. It came out at a climactic period in film 
history — just when the American cinema was catching 
its breath over the exciting innovations and new con- 
tributions that had been introduced first by the Ger- 
man film importations, then the French and finally the 
Russian. The originality of these foreign pictures had 
stirred up a wealth of film theory and criticism which 
was valuble and passionate but without a generally ac- 
cepted reference point. A criteria on which to con- 
struct, judge and evaluate a motion picture was sorely 
needed. Film Technique fulfilled this need and was 
greeted with hearty applause. Film theory and film 
making was lifted out of the gossip and "personal 
opinion" category and into a more conscious and de- 
fined art form. The concepts contained in this slim 
book stimulated and sharpened awareness of what was 
basic and true to the film medium. All films and writ- 
ings that followed — whether they agreed with its edicts 
or not — have had to take cognizance of its principles 
and contributions. Film makers and critics to the pres- 


ent continue to borrow from its rich deposit of ideas, 
implications and conclusions. 

Film Acting, which appeared shortly after the intro- 
duction of sound, never had the same deep influence 
or stirred up the same amount of excitement. This is 
probably because the problem of film acting was basic- 
ally another aspect, an extension of the problem of act- 
ing in general — an art which already had a great body 
of tradition and analysis in print, while film technique 
although utilizing many of the other, older crafts, was 
nevertheless a new and distinct medium of expression 
about which very little was known and which had ac- 
quired only the beginnings of a tradition. 

No more authoritative and knowing person could 
have been chosen to write these books than V. I. Pu- 
dovkin, acknowledged internationally as one of the 
greatest of film directors. His early pictures — Mother, 
The End of St. Petersburg, Storm Over Asia — along 
with those of other Soviet directors, burst upon the 
American scene between the years of 1927-1930, pro- 
voking tremendous excitement, controversy and ad- 
miration. Intellectuals, artists and film makers argued 
hotly about the merits of what they were forced by 
these films to concede to be an art. Cries of "propa- 
ganda" were mingled with cheers for the pictures' dy- 
namic forcefulness, high imagination and profound 
cinematic skill. When all the excitement had simmered 
down, it was agreed that the films of Pudovkin and his 
countrymen had ushered in a new era in screen artistry. 

The End of St Petersburg (1927) and Storm Over 



Asia (1928), were the two pictures which made Pu- 
dovkin's reputation in the United States. Mother was 
not shown in this country until years later, and then 
only to limited audiences. The End of St. Petersburg 
was so popular that it had the distinction of being the 
first Soviet film to appear in Broadway's largest movie 
theatre, the Roxy. It played there for a number of 
weeks after an initial two-a-day run at Hammerstein's 
legitimate theatre — an uncommon event for that day. 

The End of St. Petersburg dramatized through the 
eyes of a peasant the social upheaval in St. Petersburg, 
with a sweep and richness of detail comparable to the 
best efforts of Griffith and Eisenstein. Its warm human 
feeling for character, its atmosphere of the Russian 
countryside, its innumerable satirical touches and its 
portrait of a bewildered peasant who finally emerges 
from perplexity to an understanding of his country's 
upset, were rendered in a quick, staccato style that 
emphasized the intensity of the period and carried the 
spectator away by the sheer force and dynamic quality 
of its filmic construction. 

Some of the film's sequences were considered so 
extraordinary cinematically that they have since be- 
come celebrated in film history. In the stock exchange 
sequence for instance, Pudovkin portrayed in extreme 
close shots the hysteria of the Czarist war profiteers, 
then cross cut these images to another kind of hysteria 
— soldiers in battle being mowed down by bursting 
shells, freezing in dug-outs, killing and being killed. 
He forced the spectator to draw his own conclusions 


from the cross cutting of the pictures. Such a use of 
editing was typical of the film throughout. The theory 
that was the basis for this method can be found in his 

Storm Over Asia had many things in common with 
this film. Its protagonist, as the hero in The End of St. 
Petersburg, was also a bewildered peasant, who in the 
social upheaval becomes awakened and leads his fel- 
low men against their oppressors. Structurally simpler 
than its predecessor, it also revealed a cinematic style 
of dexterity and originality. The film was permeated 
with the same deep regard for the precise image, the 
exact pace, the significant psychological angle, and dis- 
played an equally profound use of editing. 

The closing sequence of the picture illustrates force- 
fully what Pudovkin called, "implanting an abstract 
concept into the consciousness of the spectator," 
through cinematic symbolism. The Mongol hero (mis- 
taken heir of Genghis Khan) who has fiercely fought 
his way out of his enemy's headquarters, is pursued by 
them as he rides across the desert. A windstorm begins. 
The Mongol raises his ancient sword and cries out, 
"O My People!" Suddenly as if in answer to his cry, 
the desert begins to fill with hundreds, then thousands 
of mounted Mongols. Again he calls: "Rise in your 
ancient strength!" The screen fills with tens of thou- 
sands of his tribesmen, riding furiously as though to 
battle behind their leader. Once more the Mongol calls 
out: " — And free yourselves!" Now the mounted war- 
riors blend with the fury of the storm and sweep every- 


thing before them — their enemy, their enemy's trading 
posts, trees — in a tempestuous hurricane symbolical of 
their united strength and the imminent storm over Asia. 

These important and masterful motion pictures had 
been made by Pudovkin while in his early thirties. Yet 
he had never thought of making motion pictures his 
career until he was twenty-seven. Up to that time his 
vocational interest had been chemistry. He was about 
to graduate from the Moscow University with a degree 
in physics and chemistry when the first world war 
broke out. Enlisting in the artillery, he was wounded 
and taken prisoner. The years 1915-1918 were spent in 
a Pomeranian prison camp; 1919 saw him back in Mos- 
cow installed once more in a chemist's laboratory. 

But the post-war restlessness seized him. He became 
so interested in the theatre that he decided to forsake 
his previous profession and passed the examination 
which admitted him to work in one of Moscow's 
theatre workshop groups. Then he saw D. W. Griffith's 
film Intolerance. This work made such a deep impres- 
sion upon him that there was no longer any doubt for 
him as to where his path lay. "After seeing it ( Intoler- 
ance), I was convinced that cinematography was really 
an art and an art of great potentialities. It fascinated 
me and I was eager to go into this new field." 

He applied at once to the State Film School and was 
accepted. Here during the next two years he served an 
apprenticeship acting, designing sets, improvising 
scenes and learning the business aspects of movie mak- 
ing. After this he went on to the film workshop of 


Kuleshov, who had the reputation of being the most 
stimulating and inspiring teacher in his country — a 
reputation not unlike that of Professor Baker in this 
country who made his theatre workshop at Harvard so 
famous. Under Kuleshov, Pudovkin discovered the 
medium's true nature and its creative resources. Pudov- 
kin learned that in every art there is a material and a 
mode of organizing that material in terms of the me- 
dium. Through experiment and practice he discovered 
what Melies, Porter and Griffith had instinctively fallen 
upon many years earlier: that the basic means of ex- 
pression which is unique to motion pictures lies in the 
organization of the film strips — the shots — which in 
themselves contain the elements of the larger forms — 
the scenes and sequences — and which in relationship 
motivate the film's structural unity and effectiveness. 

Toward the end of 1925, he directed his first feature- 
length picture: Mechanics of the Brain. During a lull 
in its production he collaborated with Nikolai Shipkov- 
sky in the direction of a comedy based on the Interna- 
tional Chess Tournament then being held in Moscow: 
Chess Fever. This picture brought him critical atten- 
tion and the admiration of other film makers. It also 
won for him the opportunity to direct a much more 
ambitious undertaking, Mother, based on the novel by 
Maxim Gorky, which was destined to bring him inter- 
national acclaim and place him in the front row of 
directorial talents. The film itself was hailed as a "mas- 
terpiece" and ranks as one of the classics in film history. 
It is considered by many to be his greatest work. 


It was during the production of Mother that Pudov- 
kin wrote the first of these two books as part of a series 
of manuals on film making for use in the State Cinema 
Institute. The first manual, originally containing 64 
pages, was called The Film Scenario; the second, 92 
pages long, was called The Film Director and Film 
Material. So large was their circulation in Russia that 
they were translated and published abroad in a single 
handbook entitled Film Technique. 

Pudovkin later amplified many of the ideas in this 
manual in a lecture at the Cinema Institute. At the 
suggestion of the State Academy of Art Research, he 
expanded this lecture into a third book which subse- 
quently was called Film Acting. Both books, Film 
Technique and Film Acting, became standard inter- 
national reading almost immediately, accepted and 
proselytized far beyond their author's expectations. 

Early in his career, Pudovkin discovered that the 
human eye does not see things in a mechanical way. 
That is, the eye seldom focuses on anything from the 
point of view squarely in front of it except by the 
merest chance. Instead it is more natural for the eye 
to perceive things at some angle — either from below, 
above or from the side. Also, the eye does not focus on 
an object for a long period of time, but constantly shifts 
around in a succession of swift impressions. With the 
aid of the brain these impressions are instantly regis- 
tered as texture, light and shade, size, weight, etc. 

This knowledge aided Pudovkin's formation of film 
theory. His writing is larded with pertinent observa- 


tions of the behavior of the eye and mind. He points 
out that the principles of film technique have much in 
common with the principles of the eye and the brain. 
That is, the eye does not simply act as a mechanical 
recorder, but is an instrument (not unlike the lens of 
the camera) whose impressions are linked to and quali- 
fied by the brain. For what the eye sees the brain 
appraises, computes and arranges in an organized sum- 
mation or concept. This activity of selection and re- 
arrangement for the purpose of implanting an idea or 
emotion or concept is the secret of film construction. 
Many vivid examples from Pudovkin's own and other 
films make the application of his method and the work- 
ing cause and effect enlightening, practical and stim- 

At all times it is the practitioner talking, not the critic 
or theorist. Pudovkin grapples with the specifics of 
craft problems that confront every film maker and the 
principles he formulates flow from much study and 
practice in the laboratory and studio. At first glance, 
Pudovkin's approach may seem to some, unfeeling, 
doctrinaire or even mechanical. Yet his films prove that 
when construction and action are understood in terms 
of the screen medium, the results are as human and as 
full of feeling as the director can make them. 

Film Technique and Film Acting can in no way be 
considered in the category of manuals which teach 
movie making in twelve easy lessons. Nor are they in- 
tended for the amateur film hobbyist — although a 
knowledge of the contents of Pudovkin's books can 


greatly improve his work. They can provide such 
hobbyists with an insight into the medium such as they 
never dreamed of and thus enable them to enhance 
their own pleasure by raising them from dabblers to 
creative craftsmen. 

There is so much that is touched upon in these books 
that is of grave significance, that they merit continuous 
reading and study. Other writing on film art may go 
into the subject at greater length, examine more thor- 
oughly more aspects, include wider discussions of more 
technical problems more recently arisen, but no book 
speaks with greater authority, nor has captured with 
greater simplicity and comprehensiveness the basic is- 
sues of film structure. Because of its laconic treatment 
and compactness, important details are sometimes 
missed or oversimplified. It is important to note for 
example that Pudovkin says, the foundation of film art 
is editing. He does not say, as many of his readers have 
said later, that the art of film is editing. Together, Film 
Technique and Film Acting constitute an anatomy of 
film art. Their reappearance in an American edition 
after many years of being out of print is an augury 
that holds much promise for the future. 

Lewis Jacobs 


THE foundation of film art is editing. Armed 
with this watchword, the young cinema of 
Soviet Russia commenced its progress, and it 
is a maxim that, to this day, has lost nothing of its 
significance and force. 

It must be borne in mind that the expression 
" editing " is not always completely interpreted 
or understood in its essence. By some the term is 
naively assumed to imply only a joining together of 
the strips of film in their proper time-succession. 
Others, again, know only two sorts of editing, a fast 
and a slow. But they forget — or they have never 
learnt — that rhythm (i.e., the effects controlled by 
the alternation in cutting of longer or shorter strips 
of film) by no means exhausts all the possibilities of 

To make clear my point and to bring home 
unmistakably to my readers the meaning of editing 
and its full potentialities, I shall use the analogy 
of another art-form — literature. To the poet or 
writer separate words are as raw material. They 
have the widest and most variable meanings which 
only begin to become precise through their position 
in the sentence. To that extent to which the word 
is an integral part of the composed phrase, to that 
extent is its effect and meaning variable until 


it is fixed in position, in the arranged artistic 

To the film director each shot of the finished film 
subserves the same purpose as the word to the poet. 
Hesitating, selecting, rejecting, and taking up again, 
he stands before the separate takes, and only by 
conscious artistic composition at this stage are gradu- 
ally pieced together the " phrases of editing," the 
incidents and sequences, from which emerges, step 
by step, the finished creation, the film. 

The expression that the film is " shot " is entirely 
false, and should disappear from the language. The 
film is not shot, but built, built up from the separate 
strips of celluloid that are its raw material. If a writer 
requires a word — for example, beech — the single word 
is only the raw skeleton of a meaning, so to speak, 
a concept without essence or precision. Only in 
conjunction with other words, set in the frame of a 
complex form, does art endow it with life and reality. 
I open at hazard a book that lies before me and read 
" the tender green of a young beech " — not very 
remarkable prose, certainly, but an example that 
shows fully and clearly the difference between a 
single word and a word structure, in which the beech 
is not merely a bare suggestion, but has become part 
of a definite, literary form. The dead word has been 
waked to life through art. 

I claim that every object, taken from a given view- 
point and shown on the screen to spectators, is a 
dead object, even though it has moved before the 
camera. The proper movement of an object before 


the camera is yet no movement on the screen, it is no 
more than raw material for the future building-up, 
by editing, of the movement that is conveyed by the 
assemblage of the various strips of film. Only if the 
object be placed together among a number of 
separate objects, only if it be presented as part of a 
synthesis of different separate visual images, is it 
endowed with filmic life. Transformed like the 
word " beech " in our analogy, it changes itself in 
this process from a skeletal photographic copy of 
nature into a part of the filmic form. 

Every object must, by editing, be brought upon 
the screen so that it shall have not photographic, but 
cinematographic essence. 

One thus perceives that the meaning of editing 
and the problems it presents to the director are by 
no means exhausted by the logical time-succession 
inherent in the shots, or by the arrangement of a 
rhythm. Editing is the basic creative force, by power 
of which the soulless photographs (the separate shots) 
are engineered into living, cinematographic form. 
And it is typical that, in the construction of this form, 
material may be used that is in reality of an entirely 
different character from that in the guise of which it 
eventually appears. I shall take an example from 
my last film, The End of St. Petersburg. 

At the beginning of that part of the action that 
represents war, I wished to show a terrific explosion, 
In order to render the effect of this explosion with 
absolute faithfulness, I caused a great mass of dyna- 
mite to be buried in the earth, had it blasted, and 


shot it. The explosion was veritably colossal — but 
filmically it was nothing. On the screen it was merely 
a slow, lifeless movement. Later, after much trial 
and experiment, I managed to " edit " the explosion 
with all the effect I required — moreover, without 
using a single piece of the scene I had just taken. 
I took a flammenwerfer that belched forth clouds of 
smoke. In order to give the effect of the crash I cut 
in short flashes of a magnesium flare, in rhythmic 
alternation of light and dark. Into the middle of this 
I cut a shot of a river taken some time before, that 
seemed to me to be appropriate owing to its special 
tones of light and shade. Thus gradually arose 
before me the visual effect I required. The bomb 
explosion was at last upon the screen, but, in reality, 
its elements comprised everything imaginable except 
a real explosion. 

Once more, reinforced by this example, I repeat 
that editing is the creative force of filmic reality, and 
that nature provides only the raw material with 
which it works. That, precisely, is the relationship 
between reality and the film. 

These observations apply also in detail to the 
actors. The man photographed is only raw material 
for the future composition of his image in the film, 
arranged in editing. 

When faced with the task of presenting a captain 
of industry in the film The End of St. Petersburg, I 
sought to solve the problem by cutting in his figure 
with the equestrian statue of Peter the Great. I 
claim that the resultant composition is effective with 


a reality quite other than that produced by the 
posing of an actor, which nearly always smacks 
of Theatre. 

In my earlier film, Mother, I tried to affect the 
spectators, not by the psychological performances of 
an actor, but by plastic synthesis through editing. 
The son sits in prison. Suddenly, passed in to him 
surreptitiously, he receives a note that next day he is 
to be set free. The problem was the expression, 
filmically, of his joy. The photographing of a face 
lighting up with joy would have been flat and void 
of effect. I show, therefore, the nervous play of his 
hands and a big close-up of the lower half of his face, 
the corners of the smile. These shots I cut in with 
other and varied material — shots of a brook, swollen 
with the rapid flow of spring, of the play of sunlight 
broken on the water, birds splashing in the village 
pond, and finally a laughing child. By the junction 
of these components our expression of " prisoner's 
joy " takes shape. I do not know how the spectators 
reacted to my experiment — I myself have always 
been deeply convinced of its force. 

Cinematography advances with rapid stride. Its 
possibilities are inexhaustible. But it must not be 
forgotten that its path to a real art will be found only 
when it has been freed from the dictates of an art- 
form foreign to it — that is, the Theatre. Cinemato- 
graphy stands now upon the threshold of its own 

The effort to affect from the screen the feelings 
and ideas of the public by means of editing is of 


crucial importance, for it is an effort that renounces 
theatrical method. I am firmly convinced that it is 
along this path that the great international art of 
cinematography will make its further progress. 

(Published in Filmregie und Filmmanuskript, translated by Georg 
and Nadia Friedland, Lichtbildbuehne, Berlin, 1928, and re- 
translated from German by I. M., in The Film Weekly, London, 
October 29, 1928.) 




THE scenarios usually submitted to production 
firms are marked by a specific character. 
Almost all represent the primitive narration 
of some given content, their authors having appar- 
ently concerned themselves only with the relation 
of incident, employing for the most part literary 
methods, and entirely disregarding the extent to 
which the material they propose will be interesting 
as subject for cinematographic treatment. The 
question of special cinematographic treatment of 
material is highly important. Every art possesses its 
own peculiar method of effectively presenting its 
matter. This remains true, of course, for the film. To 
work at a scenario without knowing the methods of 
directorial work, the methods of shooting and cutting 
a film, is as foolish as to give a Frenchman a Russian 
poem in literal translation. In order to communi- 
cate to the Frenchman the correct impression, one 
must rewrite the poem anew, with knowledge of the 
peculiarities of French verse-form. In order to write 
a scenario suitable for filming, one must know the 
methods by which the spectator can be influenced 
from the screen. 

The opinion is often met with that the scenarist has 


only to give a general, primitive outline of the action. 
The whole work of detailed " filmic " adaptation is 
an affair of the director. This is entirely false. It 
should be remembered that in no art can construction 
be divided into stages independent of one another. 
Already that very general approach involved in the 
fact of a work being thought out as a substantial 
future presupposes attention to possible particulari- 
ties and details. When one thinks of a theme, then 
inevitably one thinks simultaneously, be it hazily and 
unclearly, of the treatment of its action, and so forth. 
From this it follows that, even though the scenarist 
abstain from laying down detailed instructions on 
what to shoot and how to shoot it, what to edit and 
how to edit it, none the less a knowledge and con- 
sideration of the possibilities and peculiarities of 
directorial work will enable him to propose material 
that can be used by the director, and will make pos- 
sible to him the creation of a, Jilmically expressive film. 
Usually the result is exactly the opposite — usually the 
first approach of the scenarist to his work implies in 
the best cases uninteresting, in the worst insur- 
mountable, obstacles to filmic adaptation. 

The purpose of this study is to communicate what 
is, it is true, a very elementary knowledge of the 
basic principles of scenario work in their relation to 
the basic principles of directorial work. Apart from 
those considerations specifically filmic, the scenarist, 
especially in the field of general construction, is con- 
fronted with the laws governing creation in other 
allied arts. A scenario may be constructed in the 


style of a playwright, and will then be subject to the 
laws that determine the construction of a play. In 
other cases it may approach the novel, and its con- 
struction will consequently be conditioned by other 
laws. But these questions can be treated only super- 
ficially in the present sketch, and readers especially 
interested in them must turn to specialised works. 

Part I 


It is generally known that the finished film con- 
sists of a whole series of more or less short pieces 
following one another in definite sequence. In 
observing the development of the action the spectator 
is transferred first to one place, then to another ; yet 
more, he is shown an incident, even sometimes an 
actor, not as a whole, but consecutively by aiming 
the camera at various parts of the scene or of the 
human body. This kind of construction of a picture, 
the resolving of the material into its elements and 
subsequent building from them of a filmic whole, is 
called " constructive editing," and it will be discussed 
in detail in the second part of this sketch. As a 
preliminary it is necessary only for us to note the 
fact of this basic method of film- work. 

In shooting a film, the director is not in a position 
to do so consecutively — that is, begin with the first 


scene and thence, following the scenario, proceed in 
order right up to the last. The reason is simple. 
Suppose, for argument's sake, you build a required 
set — it nearly always happens that the scenes taking 
place in it are spread throughout the whole scenario 
— and suppose the director take it into his head, 
after shooting a scene on that set, to proceed immedi- 
ately with the scene next following in the order of the 
action of the developing scenario, then it will be 
necessary to build a new set without demolishing 
the first, then another, and so forth, accumulating a 
whole series of structures without being able to 
destroy the preceding ones. To work in this way is 
impracticable for simple technical reasons. Thus 
both director and actor are deprived of the possi- 
bility of continuity in the actual process of shooting ; 
but, at the same time, continuity is essential. With 
the loss of continuity, we lose the unity of the work — 
its style and, with that, its effect. From this derives 
the inevitable necessity of a detailed preliminary 
overhauling of the scenario. Only then can a 
director work with confidence, only then can he 
attain significant results, when he treats each piece 
carefully according to a filmic plan, when, clearly 
visualising to himself a series of screen images, he 
traces and fixes the whole course of development, 
both of the scenario action and of the work of the 
separate characters. In this preliminary paper-work 
must be created that style, that unity, which con- 
ditions the value of any work of art. All the various 
positions of the camera — such as long-shot, close-up, 


shot from above, and so forth ; all the technical 
means — such as " fade," " mask," and " pan " — 
that affect the relation of a shot to the piece of cellu- 
loid preceding and following it ; everything that 
comprises or strengthens the inner content of a scene, 
must be exactly considered ; otherwise in the shoot- 
ing of some scene, taken at random from the middle 
of the scenario, irreparable errors may arise. Thus 
this overhauled " working " — that is, ready for shoot- 
ing — form of scenario provides in itself the detailed 
description of each, eveta the smallest, piece, citing 
every technical method required for its execution. 

Certainly, to require the scenarist to write his work 
in such a form would be to require him to become a 
director ; but all this scenario work must be done, 
and, if he cannot deliver a " cast-iron " scenario, 
ready for shooting, nevertheless, in that degree in 
which he provides a material more or less approach- 
ing the ideal form, the scenarist will provide the 
director not with a series of obstacles to be overcome, 
but with a series of impulses that can be used. The 
more technically complete his working-out of the 
scenario, the more chance the scenarist has to see 
upon the screen the images shaped as he has 
visualised them. 


If we try to divide the work of the scenarist into, 
as it were, a succession of stages, passing from the 
general to the particular, we get the following rough 
scheme : 


i . The theme. 

2. The action (the treatment).* 

3. The cinematographic working-out of the action 

(filmic representation). 

Certainly, such a scheme is the result of the dis- 
section of an already completed scenario. As already 
remarked, the creative process can take place in 
other sequence. Separate scenes can be imagined 
and simultaneously find their position in the process 
of growth. But, none the less, some final overhaul of 
the work on the scenario must take into account 
all these three stages in their sequence. One must 
always remember that the film, by the very nature of 
its construction (the rapid alternation of successive 
pieces of celluloid), requires of the spectator an 
exceptional concentration of attention. The director, 
and consequently the scenarist also, leads despoti- 
cally along with him the attention of the spectator. 
The latter sees only that which the director shows 
him ; for reflection, for doubt, for criticism, there is 
neither room nor time, and consequently the smallest 
error in clearness or vividness of construction will be 
apprehended as an unpleasant confusion or as a 
simple, ineffective blank. Remember, therefore, 
that the scenarist must always take care to secure the 
greatest simplicity and clarity in the resolution of 
each separate problem, at whatever moment in his 
work it may confront him. For convenience in 

* I combine these two as one for the purposes of a short sketch, 
but this is not technically exact. (Author's note.) 


elucidation we will discuss separately in order each 
of the separate points of the scheme outlined, that 
we may establish the specific requirements set by 
the film in the selection and application of dif- 
ferent materials and the different methods of their 


The theme is a supra-artistic concept. In fine, 
every human concept can be employed as a theme, 
and the film, no more than any other art, can place 
bounds to its selection. The only question that can 
be asked is whether it be valuable or useless to the 
spectator. And this question is a purely sociological 
one, the solution of which does not enter the scope of 
this sketch. But mention must be made of certain 
formal requirements, conditioning the selection of 
the theme, if only because of the present-day position 
of film-art. The film is yet young, and the wealth of 
its methods is not yet extensive ; for this reason it is 
possible to indicate temporary limitations without 
necessarily attributing to them the permanence and 
inflexibility of laws. First of all must be mentioned 
the scale of theme. Formerly there ruled a tendency, 
and in part it exists to-day, to select such themes as 
embrace material spreading extraordinarily widely 
over time and space. As example may be quoted the 
American film Intolerance, the theme of which may be 
represented as follows : " Throughout all ages and 
among all peoples, from the earliest times to the 
present day, stalks intolerance, dragging in its wake 


murder and blood." This is a theme of monstrous 
extent ; the very fact that it spreads " throughout 
all ages and among all peoples " already conditions 
an extraordinary breadth of material. The result 
is extremely characteristic. In the first place, 
scarcely compressed into twelve reels, the film 
became so ponderous that the tiredness it created 
largely effaced its effect. In the second place, the 
abundance of matter forced the director to work the 
theme out quite generally, without touching upon 
details, and consequently there was a strong dis- 
crepancy between the depth of the motif and the 
superficiality of its form. Only the part played in 
the present day, in which the action was more con- 
centrated, produced the necessary, effective impres- 
sion. It is especially necessary to pay attention to 
this forced superficiality. At the present moment 
film-art, still in its infancy, does not possess means 
enabling it to embrace so wide a material. 

Note that most good films are characterised by very 
simple themes and relatively uncomplicated action. 
Bela Balazs, in his book " Der Sichtbare Mensch," 
quite correctly remarks that the failure of the 
majority of film adaptations of literary works is to 
be ascribed mainly to the fact that the scenarists 
concerned strove to compress a superabundance of 
material into the narrow confines of the picture. 

Cinematography is, before anything else, limited 
by the definite length of a film. A film more than 
7,000 feet long already creates an unnecessary 
exhaustion. There is, it is true, a method of issuing 


a long film in several so-called serial parts. But this 
method is possible only to films of a special kind. 
Adventure-films, their content consisting chiefly of 
a series of extraordinary happenings in the career 
of the hero, little connected with one another after 
all, and always having each an independent inter- 
est (stunts — either acrobatic or directorial), can 
naturally be shown to the spectator in several 
episodes of a single/ cycle. The spectator, losing 
nothing in impression, can see the second part 
without acquaintance with the first, the content of 
which he gathers from an opening title. The 
relationship between the episodes is attained by 
crude play upon the curiosity of the spectator ; for 
example, at the end of the first part the hero lands 
into some inextricable situation, solved only at the 
beginning of the second, and so forth. But the film 
of deeper content, the value of which lies always in 
the impression it creates as a whole, can certainly not 
be thus divided into parts for the spectator to see 
separately, one each week. 1 The influence of this 
limitation of film length is yet increased by the fact 
that the film technician, for the effective represen- 
tation of a concept, requires considerably more 
material than, let us say, the novelist or playwright. 
In a single word often a whole complex of images is 
contained. Visual images having an inferential 
significance of this nature are, however, very rare, 
and the film technician is therefore forced to carry 
out a detailed representation if he desire to achieve 
an effective impression. I repeat that the necessity 


to limit the scale of the theme is perhaps only a tem- 
porary one, but, having regard to our actual store of 
means of filmic representation, it is unavoidable. 

Meanwhile, the other requirement, conditioned by 
the basic character itself of filmic spectacle, will 
probably exist for ever — the necessity for clarity. I 
have already mentioned above the necessity for 
absolute clarity in the resolution of every problem 
met with in the process of working on the film ; this 
holds true, of course, for the work on the theme. If 
the basic idea that is to serve as backbone to the 
scenario be vague and indefinite, the scenario is con- 
demned to miscarry. 2 True that in the examination 
of the written representation, it is possible, by careful 
study, to disentangle one's way among the hints and 
unclarities, but, transposed upon the screen, such a 
scenario becomes irritatingly confusing. 

I give an example ; a scenario-writer sent us an 
already completed scenario on the life of a factory 
workman in the days before the Russian revolution. 
The scenario was written round a given hero, a work- 
man. In the course of the action he came into contact 
with a series of persons — hostile and friendly : the 
enemies harmed him, the friends helped him. At the 
beginning of the scenario the hero was depicted as a 
rough, ungoverned man ; at the end he became an 
honest, class-conscious workman. The scenario was 
written in well-drawn, naturalistic environmental 
colours, it undoubtedly contained interesting, live 
material witnessing to the powers of observation and 
the knowledge of its author, yet none the less it was 


turned down. A series of slices of life, a series of 
chance meetings and encounters bound together by 
no more than their sequence in time, is, after all, no 
more than a group of episodes. The theme as basic 
idea, uniting in itself the meaning of all the events 
depicted — that is what was lacking. Consequently 
the separate characters were without significance, 
the actions of the he/ro and the people round him 
as chaotic and adventitious as the movements 
of pedestrians on a street, passing by before a 

But the same author went through his scenario, 
altering it in accordance with the remarks made to 
him. He carefully reconstructed the line of the hero, 
guided by a clearly formulated theme. As basis he 
set the following idea : " It is not sufficient to be 
revolutionarily inclined ; to be of service to the cause 
one must possess a properly organised consciousness 
of reality." The merely blustering workman of the 
opening was changed to a reckless anarchist, 3 his 
enemies thus stood in a clear and definite front, his 
contacts with them and with his future friends 
assumed clear purpose and clear meaning, a whole 
series of superfluous complications fell away, and the 
modified scenario was transformed to a rounded and 
convincing whole. The idea defined above can be 
termed that theme the clear formulation of which 
inevitably organises the entire work and results in a 
clearly effective creation. Note as rule : formulate 
the theme clearly and exactly — otherwise the work 
will not acquire that essential meaning and unity 


that conditions every work of art. All further limi- 
tations influencing the choice of theme are connected 
with the action-treatment. As I have already said, 
the creative process never takes place in schematic 
sequence : thinking of the theme involves, nearly 
simultaneously, thinking of the action and its 


The scenarist, in the very first stages of his work, 
already possesses a given material later to be dis- 
posed in the framework of his future creation. This 
material is provided for him by knowledge, experi- 
ence, and, finally, imagination. Having established 
the theme, as basic idea conditioning the selection 
of this material, the scenarist must begin its grouping. 
Here the persons of the action are introduced, their 
relations to one another established, their various 
significance in the development of the plot deter- 
mined, and, finally, here are indicated, given 
proportions for the distribution of the entire material 
throughout the scenario. 

In entering the province of the action-treatment of 
the theme, the scenarist first comes into contact with 
the requirements of creative work. Just as the theme 
is, by definition, a supra-artistic element, so, con- 
trastingly, the work on the action is conditioned 
by a whole series of requirements peculiar to the 
given art. 

Let us first approach the most general aspect — let 
us determine the character of the work on the action. 


A writer, when he plans out a future work, establishes 
always a series of, as it were, key-stones, significant 
to the elucidation of the theme and spread over the 
whole of the work in preparation. These key-stones, 
as it were, mark the general outline ; to them belong 
the elements characteristic of the various persons, the 
nature of the events that bring these persons together, 
often the details conditioning the significance and 
strength of the elements of crescendo and diminu- 
endo, often even just separate incidents selected for 
their power and expressiveness. 

Exactly the same process occurs certainly in the 
work of the scenarist. To consider the action ab- 
stractly is impossible. It is impossible to plan merely 
that at the beginning the hero is an anarchist and 
then, after meeting with a series of mishaps in his 
efforts at revolutionary work, becomes a conscious 
communist. A scheme of this kind is no advance on 
the theme and brings us no nearer the essential 
treatment. Not only what happens must be per- 
ceived, but also how it happens ; in the work on the 
action the form must already be sensible. Imagining 
a reform in the cosmic philosophy of the hero is still 
very far from creating a climax in the scenario. 
Before the discovery of a definite concrete form that, 
in the scenarist's opinion, will affect the spectator 
from the screen, the abstract idea of a reform has no 
creative value and cannot serve as a key-stone in the 
constitution of the action ; but these key-stones are 
necessary ; they establish the hard skeleton and 
remove the danger of those blank gaps that may 


always occur if some important stage in the develop- 
ment of the scenario be treated carelessly and 
abstractly. Neglect of this element in the work of 
final filmic polishing may occasion inexpressive 
material, unsuitable for plastic treatment, and thus 
may destroy the whole construction. 

The novelist expresses his key-stones in written 
descriptions, the dramatist by rough dialogue, but 
the scenarist must think in plastic (externally expres- 
sive) images. He must train his imagination, he must 
develop the habit of representing to himself whatever 
comes into his head in the form of a sequence of 
images upon the screen. Yet more, he must learn 
to command these images and to select from those he 
visualises the clearest and most vivid ; he must know 
how to command them as the writer commands his 
words and the playwright his spoken phrases. 4 

The clarity and vividness of the action-treatment 
directly depends on the clear formulation of the 
theme. Let us take as an example an American film, 
naive, certainly, and not especially valuable, issued 
under the name Saturday Night. Though its content 
is slight, it affords an excellent model of a theme 
clearly outlined and action simply and vividly 
treated. The theme is as follows : " Persons of 
different social class will never be happy when inter- 
married." The construction of the action runs so. 
A chauffeur spurns the favours of a laundress, for he 
falls in love with a capitalist's daughter whom he 
drives every day in his car. The son of another 
capitalist, chancing to see the young laundress in his 


house, falls in love with her. Two marriages are 
celebrated. The narrow garret of the chauffeur 
seems an absurd dog-kennel to the daughter of the 
mansion. The natural desire of the chauffeur to find 
a meal at home ready for him after a hard day's work 
encounters an invincible obstacle in the fact that his 
wife has no idea how to make a fire or manage the 
cooking utensils ; the fire is too hot, the crockery 
dirties her hands, and the half-cooked food flies all 
over the floor. When friends of the chauffeur visit 
him to spend a jolly evening, they behave themselves 
so crudely, by the standards of the spoilt lady, that 
she stalks demonstratively out of the room and 
bursts into an unexpected fit of hysterics. 

Meanwhile, no better fares the ex-laundress in the 
mansion of the rich. Surrounded by scornful 
servants, she plumps from one embarrassment into 
another. She marvels at the lady's-maids who help 
her to dress and undress, she looks clumsy and absurd 
in her long-trained gown, at a dinner-party she 
becomes an object of ridicule, to the distress of her 
husband and his relatives. By chance the chauffeur 
and the former laundress meet. It is obvious that, 
influenced by disappointment, their former mutual 
inclination re-awakens. The two unhappy couples 
part, to reunite themselves in new and happier com- 
binations. The laundress is brilliant in the kitchen, 
and the capitalist's new wife wears her dresses 
faultlessly and is marvellous at the fox-trot. 

The action is as primitive as the theme, but none 
the less the film can be regarded as highly successful 


in its clear, well-thought out construction. Every 
detail is in place and directly related to the pervading 
idea. Even in this superficial sketch of its content 
one senses the presence of vivid, externally expressed 
images : the kitchen, the chauffeur's friends, the 
elegant clothes, the guests at dinner, and, again, the 
kitchen and the clothes in another form. Every 
essential element in the development of the scenario 
is characterised by clear, plastic material. 

As counter-model I shall reproduce an extract 
from one of the many scenarios that pour in every 
day : " The Nikonov family is reduced to direst 
poverty, neither the father nor Natasha can find work 
— refusals everywhere. Often Andrei visits them, and 
seeks with fervent words to encourage the despairing 
Natasha. At last, in despair, the father goes to the 
contractor and offers to make peace with him, and 
the contractor agrees on condition that he shall 
receive the daughter in marriage, and so forth/ 55 This 
is a typical example of filmic colourlessness and 
helplessness in representation. There is nothing but 
meetings and talkings. Such expressions as " Often 
Andrei visits them," " with fervent words he seeks 
to encourage M " refusals everywhere" and so forth, 
show a complete lack of any connection between the 
work on the action and that filmic form the scenario 
is later to assume. Such incidents may serve, at 
best, as material for titles, but never for shots. For 
the word " often " means, in any case, several times, 
and to show Andrei making his visit four or five times 
would seem absurd even to the author of this 


scenario ; the same applies to the expression 
" refusals everywhere. " 

What is said here is not being pedantic about a 
word. It is important to realise that even in the pre- 
paratory general treatment of the scenario must be 
indicated nothing that is impossible to represent, 
or that is inessential, but only that which can be 
established as clear and plastically expressive key- 
stones. To express externally the character of a 
scene showing direst poverty, to find acts (not words) 
characterising the relationship of Andrei to Natasha 
—this is what will provide such key-stones. It may 
be argued that work on plastic form belongs already 
to the next stage and can be left to the director, but 
to this I emphasise once again that it is always im- 
portant to have the possible plastic form before one's 
eyes even in the general approach to the work, in 
order to escape the possibility of blank gaps in the 
subsequent treatment. Remember, for example, the 
word " often," already mentioned as one entirely 
unnecessary and incapable of plastic expression. 

Thus we have established the necessity for the 
scenarist always to orientate himself according to the 
plastic material that, in the end, must serve as form 
for his representation. We now turn to the general 
questions of concentration of the action as a whole. 
There is a whole series of standards that regulate the 
construction of a narrative, of a novel, of a play* 
They stand all, undoubtedly, in close relation to 
scenario work, but their transcription cannot be 
compressed into the narrow limits of this sketch, 5 


Of the questions of general construction of the 
scenario, mention must be made here only of one. 
During work on the treatment the scenarist must 
always consider the varying degree of tension in the 
action. This tension must, after all, be reflected in 
the spectator, forcing him to follow the given part of 
the picture with more or less excitement. This 
excitement does not depend from the dramatic 
situation alone, it can be created or strengthened by 
purely extraneous methods. 6 The gradual winding- 
up of the dynamic elements of the action, the intro- 
duction of scenes built from rapid, energetic work of 
the characters, the introduction of crowd scenes, all 
these govern increases of excitement in the spectator, 
and one must learn so to construct the scenario that 
the spectator is gradually engrossed by the developing 
action, receiving the most effective impulse only at 
the end. The vast majority of scenarios suffer from 
clumsy building up of tension. As example one 
may quote the Russian film The Adventures of Mr. 
West. The first three reels are watched with ever- 
growing interest. A cowboy, arrived in Moscow 
with the American visitor West, lands into and 
escapes from a series of exceedingly complicated 
situations, the interest steadily increasing with his 
dexterity. The dynamically saturated earlier reels 
are easy to look at and grip the spectator with ever- 
increasing excitement. But after the end of the third 
reel, where the cowboy's adventures came to an 
unexpected end, the spectator experiences a natural 
reaction, and the continuation, in spite of the 


excellent directorial treatment, is watched with much 
diminished interest. And the last reel, containing 
the weakest material of the whole (a journey through 
the streets of Moscow and various empty factories), 
completely effaces the good impression of the film 
and lets the spectator go out unsatisfied. 

As an interesting example of opposite and correct 
regulation of increasing elements of tension in the 
action may be instanced the films of the well-known 
American director, Griffith. He has created a type 
of film-ending, even distinguished by his name, that 
is used by the multitude of his successors up to the 
present day. Let us take the present-day part of the 
film Intolerance, already instanced. A young work- 
man, discharged owing to participation in a strike, 
comes to New York, and falls in straightway with a 
band of petty thieves ; but, after meeting the girl he 
loves, he decides to seek honest employment. Yet the 
" villains " do not leave him in peace. Finally they 
involve him in a trial for murder and he gets into 
prison. The proofs seem so incontestable to the judge 
and jury that he is condemned to death. At the end 
of the picture his sweetheart, meanwhile become his 
wife, unexpectedly discovers the real murderer. 
Her husband is already being prepared for execu- 
tion ; only the governor has power to intervene, and 
he has just left the town on an express train. 

There ensues a terrific chase to save the hero. The 
woman rushes after the train on a racing-car whose 
owner has realised that a man's life depends upon his 
speed. In the cell the man receives unction. The car 


has almost reached the express. The preparations for 
the execution are nearing their end. At the very last 
moment, when the noose is being laid round the neck 
of the hero, comes the pardon, attained by the wife 
at the price of her last energy and effort. The quick 
changes of scene, the contrasting alternation of the 
tearing machines with the methodical preparations 
for the execution of an innocent man, the ever- 
increasing concern of the spectator — " will they be in 
time, will they be in time ? " — all these compel an 
intensification of excitement that, being placed at 
the end, successfully concludes the picture. In the 
method of Griffith are combined the inner dramatic 
content of the action and a masterly employment of 
external effort (dynamic tension). 

His films can be used as models of correctly con- 
trasted intensification. A working out of the /action 
of the scenario in which all the lines of behaviour of 
the various characters are clearly expressed, in which 
all the major events in which the characters take part 
are consecutively described, and in which, last but 
not least, the tension of the action is correctly con- 
sidered and constructed in such a way that its 
gradual intensification rises to a climactic end — this, 
in fine, is a treatment already of considerable value 
and useful to the director in representation. Written 
though it may be in purely literary phraseology, such 
a treatment will provide the libretto, as it were, of the 
scenario ; and, in the hands of the specialist director, 
it will be transformable into a working script the 
more easily the more that orientation on plastic 


material, of which I spoke above, has been taken into 
consideration in working out the action. 

Already the next stage in the work of the scenarist 
is the specific cinematographic overhaul of the action. 
The scenario must be divided into sequences, these 
into scenes, and the scenes into the separate shots 
(script-scenes) 7 that correspond to the separate pieces 
of celluloid from which the film is ultimately joined 
together. A reel must not exceed a certain length — 
its average length works out at from 900 to 1,200 feet. 
The film consists usually of from six to eight reels, and 
the scenario-writer desirous of endowing his work 
with specific filmic treatment must learn to feel its 
length. In order correctly to feel it he should take 
into consideration the following facts. The projector 
at normal speed runs through about one foot per 
second. Consequently a reel runs through in under 
fifteen minutes, and the whole film in about an hour 
and a half. If one try to visualise each separate scene 
as a component of a reel, as it appears upon the 
screen, and consider the time each will take up, one 
can reckon the quantity required as content of the 
whole scenario. 8 

A scenario worked out to the elementary and 
preliminary extent of division into a series of reels, 
sequences, and separate scenes looks as follows 9 : 


Scene 1 . — A peasant waggon, sinking in the mud, 
slowly trails along a country road. Sadly and 
reluctantly the hooded driver urges on his tired 


horse. A figure cowers into the corner of the 
waggon, trying to wrap itself in an old soldier's 
cloak for protection against the penetrating wind. 
A passer-by, coming towards the waggon, pauses, 
standing inquisitively. The driver turns to him. 

Title : 

" Is it far to Nakhabin ? " 

The pedestrian answers, pointing with his 
hand. The waggon sets onward, while the passer- 
by stares after it and then continues on his way. 

Scene 2. — A peasant hut. In the corner on a 
bench, lies an old man covered with rags ; he 
breathes with difficulty. An old woman is busy- 
ing herself about the hearth and irritably clattering 
among the pots. The sick man turns himself 
round painfully and speaks to her. 

Title : 

" // sounds as if some one were knocking'' 

The old woman goes to the window and looks 

Title : 
" Imagination, Mironitch ; the door rattles in the wind" 

A scenario written in this way, already divided into 
separate scenes and with titles, forms the first phase 
of filmic overhaul. But it is still far from the working- 
script, referred to above, already fully prepared for 


immediate shooting. Note that there is a whole series 
of details characteristic for the given scene and em- 
phasised by their literary form, such as, for example, 
" sinking in the mud," " sadly the driver, 5 ' " a 
passenger, wrapped in a soldier's cloak," " the pierc- 
ing wind " — none of these details will reach the 
spectator if they are introduced merely as incidentals 
in shooting the scene as a whole, just as it is written. 
The film possesses essentially specific and highly 
effective methods by means of which the spectator 
can be made to notice each separate detail (mud, 
wind, behaviour of driver, behaviour of fare), show- 
ing them one by one, just as we should describe them 
in separate sequence in literary work, and not just 
simply to note " bad weather," " two men on a wag- 
gon." This method is called constructive editing. 10 
Something of the kind is used by certain scenario- 
writers in interpolating into their description of a scene 
a so-called "close-up" — thus, "a village street on a 
church holiday. An animated group of peasants. 
In the centre speaks a Comsomolka ll (close-up). 
New groups come up. The elders of the village. 
Indignant cries are heard from them." 

Such " interpolated close-ups " had better be 
omitted — they have nothing to do with constructive 
editing. Terms such as " interpolation " and " cut- 
in " are absurd expressions, the remnants of an old 
misunderstanding of the technical methods of the 
film. The details organically belonging to scenes of 
the kind instanced must not be interpolated into the 
scene, but the latter must be built out of them. We 


will turn to editing, as the basic method of influencing 
the spectator effectively from the screen, when we 
have given the necessary explanations of the basic 
sorts and selection of plastic material. 


If the scenarist wish to communicate to the 
spectator from the screen the entirety of his concepts, 
he must approximate his work as closely as possible 
to its final shooting form, that is to say, he must 
consider, use, and perhaps even partly discover, 
all those specific methods that the director can later 
employ. He must watch films attentively, and, after 
seeing them, must try to express various sequences, 
endeavouring to represent their editing construction. 
By such attentive observation of the work of others 
can the necessary experience be gained, I will give 
an example of an already prepared scenario sequence, 
its editing constructed and ready for shooting. 


Title : 

The rising of the workers is crushed. 

i . Slow fade-in. — The ground strewn with empty 
cartridge-cases. Rifles lying about. 

2. Slow panorama. — A long barricade passes the 
lens, on it lie strewn the corpses of workmen. 

3. Part of the barricade. The corpses of work- 
men. A woman with her head hanging over back- 
wards lies among them. From a broken flagstaff 
hangs a torn flag. Mix. 


4. Closer, — The woman with her head hanging 
back, her eyes staring at the lens. Mix. 

5. The torn flag flutters in the wind. Slow 

This is an example of a slow, solemn, introductory 
sequence. The mixes^re used to emphasise the slow- 
ness. The " pan " gives the same effect, and the 
fades separate the sequence into a separate indepen- 
dent motif. 

Now an example of a dynamic sequence in 
heightened editing tempo. 

1 . From the corner rushes a crowd of workmen. 
They run towards the lens ; the figures flee rapidly 
past it. 

2. A workman leaps over a great crowbar and 
runs on. He suddenly stops, and calls : 

Title : 

" Save the first shop ! " 

3. A second workman clambers on to a crane. 

4. Steam streams upwards. A frenzied siren 

5. The workman on the crane bends over and 
looks downwards. 

6. The running crowd of workpeople {taken 
from above). 

7. The workman on the crane calls with all his 
strength : 

Title (in large letters) : 



8. Shot from above. — The running crowd stops, 
stands for a moment, and then rushes on anew. 

9. A section of the running crowd knocks over 
a woman. 

10. Close-up. — The woman who fell raises her- 
self, and clasps her head, swaying. 

1 1 . The running mass. 

Here is shown the editing of quickly alternating 
pieces, creating the desired excitement by their 
rhythm. The increase in size of the title emphasises 
the increasing panic. 

Of course, this form of scenario requires thorough, 
special training, but I repeat once again that only 
determined effort on the part of the scenarist to 
reach as near as possible to this technically correct 
form will turn him into a writer able to give in a 
general treatment material even usable in film work. 

A scenario will only be good if its writer shall have 
mastered a knowledge of specific methods, if he 
know how to use them as weapons for the winning 
of effect ; otherwise the scenario will be but raw 
material that must, to an extent of ninety per cent, 
be subordinated to the treatment of a specialist. 

Part II 


The scenario-writer must bear always in mind 
the fact that every sentence that he writes will 


have to appear plastically upon the screen in 
some visible form. Consequently, it is not the words 
he writes that are important, but the externally 
expressed plastic images that he describes in these 
words. As a matter of fact, it is not so easy to find 
such plastic images. They must, before anything 
else, be clear and expressive. Anyone familiar with 
literary work can well represent to himself what is an 
expressive word, or an expressive style ; he knows 
that there are such things as telling, expressive words, 
as vividly expressive word-constructions — sentences. 
Similarly, he knows that the involved, obscure style 
of an inexperienced writer, with a multitude of super- 
fluous words, is the consequence of his inability to 
select and control them. What is here said of literary 
work is entirely applicable to the work of the 
scenarist, only the word is replaced by the plastic 
image. The scenarist must know how to find and 
to use plastic (visually expressive) material : that 
is to say, he must know how to discover and how to 
select, from the limitless mass of material provided 
by life and its observation, those forms and move- 
ments that shall most clearly and vividly express in 
images the whole content of his idea. 12 

Let us quote certain illustrative examples. 

In the film ToVable David there is a sequence in 
which a new character — an escaped convict, a tramp 
— comes into the action. The type of a thorough 
scoundrel. The task of the scenarist was to give his 
characteristics. Let us analyse how it was done, by 
describing the series of following shots. 


i . The tramp — a degenerate brute, his face over- 
grown with unshaven bristles — is about to enter a 
house, but stops, his attention caught by something. 

2. Close-up of the face of the watching tramp. 

3. Showing what he sees — a tiny, fluffy kitten 
asleep in the sun. 

4. The tramp again. He raises a heavy stone with 
the transparent intention of using it to obliterate 
the sleeping little beast, and only the casual push 
of a fellow, just then carrying objects into the house, 
hinders him from carrying out his cruel intention. 

In this little incident there is not one single 
explanatory title, and yet it is effective,! clearly and 
vividly. Why? Because the plastic material has 
been correctly and suitably chosen. The sleeping 
kitten is a perfect expression of complete innocence 
and freedom from care, and thus the heavy stone in 
the hands of the huge man immediately becomes the 
symbol of absurd and senseless cruelty to the mind 
of the spectator who sees this scene. Thus the end is 
attained. The characterisation is achieved, and at 
the same time its abstract content wholly expressed, 
with the help of happily chosen plastic material. 

Another example from the same film. The con- 
text of the incident is as follows : misfortune is come 
upon a family of peasants — the eldest son has been 
crippled by a blow with a stone ; the father has died 
of a heart-attack ; the youngest son (the hero of the 
film), still half a boy, knows who is responsible for 
all their ills — the tramp, who had treacherously 
attacked his brother. Again and again in the course 


of the picture the youngster seeks to be revenged 
upon the blackguard. The weapon of revenge — an 
old flint-lock. When the disabled brother is brought 
into the house, and the family, dazed with despair, 
is gathered round his bed, the boy, half crying, half 
gritting his teeth, secretly loads the flint-lock. The 
sudden death of the father and the supplications of 
the mother, clinging in despair to the feet of her son, 
restrain his outbreak. The boy remains the sole 
hope of the family. When, later, he again reaches 
secretly for the flint-lock and takes it from the wall, 
the voice of his mother, calling him to go and buy 
soap, compels him to hang the gun up again and 
run out to the store. Note with what mastery the 
old, clumsy-looking flint-lock is here employed. It 
is as if it incarnated the thirst for revenge that 
tortures the boy. Every time the hand reaches for 
the flint-lock the spectator knows what is passing in 
the mind of the hero. No titles, no explanations are 
necessary. Recall the scene of soap fetched for the 
mother just described. Hanging up the flint-lock and 
running to the store implies forgetfulness of self for the 
sake of another. This is a perfect characterisation, 
rendering on the one hand the naive directness of 
the man still half a child, on the other his awakening 
sense of duty. 

Another example, from the film The Leather 
Pushers. The incident is as follows. A man sitting 
at a table is waiting for his friend. He is smoking a 
cigarette, and in front of him on the table stand an 
ash-tray and a glass half empty of liquid, both filled 


with an enormous number of cigarette ends. The 
spectator immediately visualises the great space of 
time the man has been waiting and, no less, the 
degree of excitement that has made him smoke 
nearly a hundred cigarettes. 

From the examples quoted above it will be clear 
what is to be understood by the term : expressive 
plastic material. We have found here a kitten, a 
tramp, a stone, a flint-lock, some cigarette ends, and 
not one of these objects or persons yas introduced 
by chance ; each constitutes a visual image, requir- 
ing no explanation and yet carrying a clear and 
definite meaning. 

Hence an important rule for the scenarist : in 
working out each incident he must carefully consider 
and select each visual image ; he must remember 
that for each concept, each idea, there may be tens 
and hundreds of possible means of plastic expression, 
and that it is his task to select from amongst them 
the clearest and most vivid. Special attention, how- 
ever, must be paid to the special part played in 
pictures by objects. Relationships between human 
beings are, for the most part, illuminated by con- 
versations, by words ; no one carries on conversa- 
tion with objects, and that is why work with them, 
being expressed by visual action, is of special interest 
to the film technician, as we have just seen in these 
examples. Try to imagine to yourself anger, joy, 
confusion, sorrow, and so forth expressed not in 
words and the gestures accompanying them, but in 
action connected with objects, and you will see how 


images saturated with plastic expression come into 
your mind. Work on plastic material is of the 
highest importance for the scenarist. In the process 
of it he learns to imagine to himself what he has 
written as it will appear upon the screen, and the 
knowledge thus acquired is essential for correct and 
fruitful work. 

One must try to express one's concepts in clear 
and vivid visual images. Suppose it be a matter of 
the characterisation of some person of the action — 
this person must be placed in such conditions as will 
make him appear, by means of some action or move- 
ment, in the desired light (remember the tramp 
and the kitten). Suppose it be a matter of the 
representation of some event — those scenes must be 
assembled that most vividly emphasise visually the 
essence of the event represented. 

In relation to what we have said, we must turn 
to the question of sub-titles. The usual view of titles 
as an invading, adventitious element, to be avoided 
wherever possible, is fundamentally erroneous. The 
title is an organic part of the film and, consequently, 
of the scenario. Naturally a title can be super- 
fluous, but only in the sense in which a whole scene 
can be superfluous. According to their content 
titles can be divided into two groups : 


Titles of this kind give the spectator a necessary 
explanation in short and clear form, and thus 


sometimes replace a whole episode of the action in the 
development of the scenario. Let us take an 
example from ToVable David. Three tramps, needed 
by the scenarist to create an opposing evil influence 
to the hero of the scenario, are introduced. Before 
their appearance on the screen comes a title : " Three 
convicts escaped from the nearest prison." Naturally 
the escape itself could be shown ihstead of the title, 
but, as it is not the escape, but thp tramps that are 
important to the scenarist, he replaces the whole 
incident of the escape, as having no basic impor- 
tance in the development of the action, by a title. 
The essential action — the appearance of the tramps 
— is shown on the screen preceded by a continuity 
title. This is correct construction. It is an entirely 
different matter for a title to replace an essential 
element of the scenario, where the subsequent action 
is, so to say, its result. For example : after the title 
" Olga, unable to endure the character of her hard- 
hearted husband, resolved to leave him," Olga is 
shown walking out of the front door. This is no 
good at all. The action is weaker than the title, and 
shows inability to resolve the plastic problem 

To the group " continuity tides " must also be 
referred such titles as indicate an hour or place of 
the action — for example : " in the evening," " at 
Ivan's," replacing by words those parts of the 
scenario the visual representation of which would 
uselessly spin out and burden the development of 
the action. To summarise what has been said about 


continuity titles we must emphasise once again the 
following : the continuity title is only good if it 
removes the superfluous from the scenario, if it 
shortly explains essentials to the spectator and 
prepares him for clearer apprehension of the sub- 
sequent action (as in the example with the tramps). 
A continuity title must never be stronger than the 
subsequent image of the action (as in the example 
of Olga leaving her husband) . i3 


This kind of title introduces living, spoken speech 
into the picture. Of their significance not much 
need be said. The main consideration affecting 
them is : good literary treatment and, certainly, 
as much compression as possible. 14 One must 
consider that, on the average, every line of title 
(two to three words) requires three feet of film. 15 
Consequently a title twelve words long stays on the 
screen from twelve to eighteen seconds, and can, 
by a temporal interruption of this kind, destroy the 
rhythm, and with it the sequence and impression, 
of the current shots. 

Clarity is as important for the spoken as for the 
continuity title. Superfluous words that may en- 
hance the literary beauty of the sentence but will 
complicate its rapid comprehension are not per- 
missible. The film spectator has no time to savour 
words. The title must " get " to the spectator 
quickly — in the course of the process of being read. 


To what has been said must be added that in 
construction of the scenario one must be careful of 
the distribution of the titles. A continual, even 
interruption of the action by titles is not desirable. 
It is better to try to distribute them (this is especially 
important with continuity titles) so that by con- 
centrating them in one part I of the scenario the 
remainder is left free for development of the action. 
Thus work the Americans, giving all the necessary 
explanations in the early reels, strengthening the 
middle by use of more spoken titles, and at the end, 
in quicker tempo, carrying through the bare action 
to the finish without titles. 

It is interesting to note that, apart from its literal 
content, the title may have also a plastic content. 
For example, often large, distinct lettering is used, 
the importance of the word being associated with 
the size of the letters with which it is formed. An 
example — in the propaganda film Famine there was 
an end title as follows : first appeared in normal 
size the first word " Comrades " ; it disappeared 
and was replaced by a larger " Brothers " ; and 
finally appeared the third — filling the whole screen — 
" Help ! " Such a title was undoubtedly more 
effective than an ordinary one. Consideration of 
the plastic size of the title is undoubtedly very 
interesting, and this the scenarist should remember. 16 
Yet more important than the plastic aspect of a title 
is its rhythmic significance. We have already said 
that too long tides must not be used. This is not all ; 
it must be borne in mind that with the length of a 


title must be considered the speed of the action in 
which it appears. Rapid action demands short, 
abrupt titles 17 ; long-drawn-out action can be 
linked only with slow ones. 


Having learned the nature of plastic material, we 
must gain a knowledge of some of the purely formal 
methods used by the director and cameraman in 
shooting the picture. The simplest of these are as 
follows : 

Fade-in 18 : The screen is entirely dark ; as it 
becomes lighter the picture is disclosed. 

Fade-out: The reverse process — the darkening of 
the picture until it has disappeared. 

The fade has mainly a rhythmic significance. 
The slow withdrawal of the picture from the view- 
field of the spectator corresponds, in contradistinc- 
tion to its usual sudden breaking-off, to the slow 
withdrawal of the spectator from the scene. One 
usually ends a sequence with a fade-out, especially 
when the scene itself has been carried out in retarded 
tempo. For example : a man exhaustedly ap- 
proaches an armchair, lowers himself into it, drops 
his head in his hands — pause — slowly the shutter 

The fade-in is, on the contrary, equivalent to the 
purposeful introduction of the spectator to a new 
environment and new action. It is used to begin a 
film, or a separate sequence. In determining the 


general rhythm of the action one should indicate 
the speed of the fade : quick, slow. Often shots are 
bounded by a fade-in and fade-out — that is to say, 
the scene begins with the opening and ends with 
the closing of the shutter. By the use of this method 
is achieved the emphasis 6f an incident divorced 
from the general line of thk scenario — very often, 
for example, this method is used for a refrain (leit- 
motif) or a flash-back. The fade can take various 
forms. A common form, now old-fashioned, is the 
round iris. At an iris-in there appears upon the 
dark screen a spot of light, disclosing the picture as 
it broadens. 19 Other forms of shutter are, for 
example, an iris like a widening or narrowing slit, 
a falling or rising horizontal shutter, vertical side 
shutters, and so forth. It should be mentioned, 
however, that the frequent use of various irises and 
shutters 20 is unnecessarily trying to the spectator. 

Shots in iris or in mask. — The screen is darkened 
except for a light opening in the centre, round or 
otherwise in shape. The action takes place in this 
opening. This is a so-called " mask." Its employ- 
ment has various meanings. The most common is 
its use to let the spectator see from the viewpoint of 
the hero — for example, the hero looks through a 
keyhole ; there appears what he sees, shown in a 
mask shaped like a keyhole. A field-glass-shaped 
mask can also be used, and so forth. 

It is interesting to note the special use of a small, 
round mask (a stationary iris), often used in 
American films. For example : (a) The hero 


stands on a hill and gazes into the distance, (b) A 
road taken from far off is shown in a little round 
mask ; along the road gallops a horse. A dual 
object is attained with this kind of shot : in the 
first place, by the narrowing of the field of view the 
attention of the spectator becomes concentrated 
on that which the hero is looking at ; in the second 
place, the small scale by which the impression of 
distance is maintained is not lost. 

The Mix. — The transition from one section of the 
film to another is effected not by the usual cut, but 
gradually — that is to say, one image disappears 
slowly and another appears in its place. This 
method has also a mainly rhythmic significance. 
Mixes involve a slow rhythm. Often they are used 
in the representation of a flash-back, as if imitating 
the birth of one idea from another. 

It is necessary to warn the scenarist against over- 
use of mixes. Technically, in making a mix, the 
cameraman, after having taken the one shot, must 
immediately begin to take the other, which is not 
always possible. If, for example, in a scenario the 
action is indicated as follows : the Spasskaia Tower 
(Moscow) mix to the Isaakievski Cathedral (Lenin- 
grad), it means that after taking the tower the 
cameraman must proceed immediately to Lenin- 
grad. 21 

The Panorama (Pan). — In shooting, the camera is 
given an even movement sideways, upwards, or 
downwards. 22 The lens of the camera turns to 
follow the object shot as it moves before it, or glides 


along the object showing various parts of it one after 
the other. This is a purely technical method, and 
its significance is obvious. 

Forward or Backward Movement ( Tracking or Trolley- 
ing). — The camera approaches or becomes distant 
from the object during the shot. This method is 
nowadays scarcely ever used. 23 It gives a gradual 
transition from long-shot to close-up, and the 

Shots Out of Focus. — In the latest American films 
one often notices sections (especially faces in close- 
up) taken so that the outlines appear slightly indis- 
tinct. 24 This method undoubtedly gives a special 
colour of softness and " tenderness," especially in 
scenes of lyric character, but it must be considered 
as a specific aesthetic method devoid of general 

Everything said here regarding simple methods 
of taking shots has certainly only information value. 
What particular method of shooting is to be used, 
only his own taste and his own finer feelings can tell 
the scenarist. Here are no rules ; the field for new 
invention and combination is wide. 


(Structural Editing) 

A cinematograph film, and consequently also a 
scenario, is always divided into a great number of 
separate pieces (more correctly, it is built out of 
these pieces). The sum of the shooting-script is 


divided into sequences, each sequence into scenes, 25 
and, finally, the scenes themselves are constructed 
from a whole series of pieces (script-scenes) shot 
from various angles. An actual scenario, ready for 
use in shooting, must take into account this basic 
property of the film. The scenarist must be able to 
write his material on paper exactly as it will appear 
upon the screen, thus giving exactly the content of 
each shot as well as its position in sequence. The 
construction of a scene from pieces, a sequence from 
scenes, and reel from sequences, and so forth, is 
called editing. Editing is one of the most significant 
instruments of effect possessed by the film technician 
and, therefore, by the scenarist also. Let us now 
become acquainted with its methods one by one. 


Everyone familiar with a film is familiar with 
the expression " close-up." The alternating repre- 
sentation of the faces of the characters during a 
dialogue ; the representation of hands, or feet, 
filling the whole screen — all this is familiar to every- 
one. But in order to know how properly to use the 
close-up, one must understand its significance, 
which is as follows : the close-up directs the atten- 
tion of the spectator to that detail which is, at the 
moment, important to the course of the action. For 
instance, three persons are taking part in a scene. 
Suppose the significance of this scene consist in the 
general course of the action (if, for example, all three 
are lifting some heavy object), then they are taken 


simultaneously in a general view, the so-called long- 
shot. But suppose any one of them change to an 
independent action having significance in the 
scenario (for example, separating himself from the 
others, he draws a revolver cautiously from his 
pocket), then the camera is directed on him alone. 
His action is recorded separately. 

What is said above applies not only to persons, 
but also to separate parts of a person, and objects. 
Let us suppose a man is to be taken apparently 
listening calmly to the conversation of someone else, 
but actually restraining his anger with difficulty. 
The man crushes the cigarette he holds in his hand, 
a gesture unnoticed by the other. This hand will 
always be shown on the screen separately, in close- 
up, otherwise the spectator will not notice it and a 
characteristic detail will be missed. The view 
formerly obtained (and is still held by some) that 
the close-up is an " interruption " of the long-shot. 
This idea is entirely false. It is no sort of interrup- 
tion . It represents a proper form of construction. 

In order to make clear to oneself the nature of the 
process of editing a scene, one may draw the follow- 
ing analogy. Imagine yourself observing a scene 
unfolded in front of you, thus : a man stands near 
the wall of a house and turns his head to the left ; 
there appears another man slinking cautiously 
through the gate. The two are fairly widely distant 
from one another — they stop. The first takes some 
object and shows it to the other, mocking him. The 
latter clenches his fists in a rage and throws himself 


at the former. At this moment a woman looks out 
of a window on the third floor and calls, " Police ! " 
The antagonists run off in opposite directions. 
Now, how would this have been observed ? 

1 . The observer looks at the first man. He turns 
his head. 

2. What is he looking at ? The observer turns 
his glance in the same direction and sees the man 
entering the gate. The latter stops. 

3. How does the first react to the appearance on 
the scene of the second ? A new turn by the 
observer ; the first takes out an object and mocks 
the second. 

4. How does the second react ? Another turn ; he 
clenches his fists and throws himself on his opponent. 

5. The observer draws aside to watch how both 
opponents roll about fighting. 

6. A shout from above. The observer raises his 
head and sees the woman shouting at the window. 

7. The observer lowers his head and sees the 
result of the warning— the antagonists running off 
in opposite directions. 

The observer happened to be standing near and 
saw every detail, saw it clearly, but to do so he had 
to turn his head, first left, then right, then upwards, 
whithersoever his attention was attracted by the 
interest of observation and the sequence of the 
developing scene. Suppose he had been standing 
farther away from the action, taking in the two 
persons and the window on the third floor simul- 
taneously, he would have received only a general 


impression, without being able to look separately 
at the first, the secpnd, or the woman. Here we 
have approached closely the basic significance of 
editing. Its object ii the showing of the develop- 
ment of the scene in relief, as it were, by guiding the 
attention of the spectator now to one, now to the 
other separate element. The lens of the camera 
replaces the eye of the observer, and the changes of 
angle of the camera — directed now on one person, 
now on another, now on one detail, now on another 
— must be subject to the same conditions as those of 
the eyes of the observer. The film technician, in 
order to secure the greatest clarity, emphasis, and 
vividness, shoots the scene in separate pieces and, 
joining them and showing them, directs the atten- 
tion of the spectator to the separate elements, com- 
pelling him to see as the attentive observer saw. 
From the above is clear the manner in which editing 
can even work upon the emotions. Imagine to your- 
self the excited observer of some rapidly developing 
scene. His agitated glance is thrown rapidly from 
one spot to another. If we imitate this glance with 
the camera we get a series of pictures, rapidly 
alternating pieces, creating a stirring scenario editing- 
construction. The reverse would be long pieces chang- 
ing by mixes, conditioning a calm and slow editing- 
construction (as one may shoot, for example, a herd 
of cattle wandering along a road, taken from the 
viewpoint of a pedestrian on the same road) . 

We have established, by these instances, the basic 
significance of the constructive editing of scenes. 


It builds the scenes from separate pieces, of which 
each concentrates the attention of the spectator 
only on that element important to the action. The 
sequence of these pieces must not be uncontrolled, 
but must correspond to the natural transference of 
attention of an imaginary observer (who, in the end, 
is represented by the spectator). In this sequence 
must be expressed a special logic that will be 
apparent only if each shot contain an impulse 
towards transference of the attention to the next. 
For example (1) A man turns his head and looks ; 
(2) What he looks at is shown. 


The guidance of the attention of the spectator to 
different elements of the developing action in 
succession is, in general, characteristic of the film. 
It is its basic method. We have seen that the 
separate scene, and often even the movement of one 
man, is built up upon the screen from separate 
pieces. Now, the film is not simply a collection of 
different scenes. Just as the pieces are built up 
into scenes endowed, as it were, with a connected 
action, so the separate scenes are assembled into 
groups forming whole sequences. The sequence is 
constructed (edited) from scenes. Let us suppose 
ourselves faced with the task of constructing the 
following sequence : two spies are creeping forward 
to blow up a powder magazine ; on the way one 
of them loses a letter with instructions. Someone 
else finds the letter and warns the guard, who appear 


in time to arrest the spies and save the magazine. 
Here the scenarist has to deal with simultaneity of 
various actions ih several different places. While 
the spies are crawling towards the magazine, some- 
one else finds the letter and hastens to warn the 
guard. The spies have nearly reached their objec- 
tive ; the guards are warned and rushing towards 
the magazine. The spies have completed their 
preparations ; the guard arrives in time. If we 
pursue the previous analogy betwen the camera 
and an observer, we now not only have to turn it 
from side to side, but also to move it from place to 
place. The observer (the camera) is now on the 
road shadowing the spies, now in the guardroom 
recording the confusion, now back at the magazine 
showing the spies at work, and so forth. But, in 
combination of the separate scenes (editing), the 
former law of sequence succession remains in force. 
A consecutive sequence will appear upon the screen 
only if the attention of the spectator be transferred 
correctly from scene to scene. And this correctness 
is conditioned as follows : the spectator sees the 
creeping spies, the loss of the letter, and finally the 
person who finds the letter. The person with the 
letter rushes for help. The spectator is seized with 
inevitable excitement — Will the man who found 
the letter be able to forestall the explosion ? The 
scenarist immediately answers by showing the spies 
nearing the magazine — his answer has the effect of 
a warning " Time is short." The excitement of the 
spectator — Will they be in time ? — continues ; the 


scenarist shows the guard turning out. Time is very 
short — the spies are shown beginning their work. 
Thus, transferring attention now to the rescuers, 
now to the spies, the scenarist answers with actual 
impulses to increase of the spectator's interest, and 
the construction (editing) of the sequence is correctly 

There is a law in psychology that lays it down 
that if an emotion give birth to a certain movement, 
by imitation of this movement the corresponding 
emotion can be called forth. If the scenarist can 
effect in even rhythm the transference of interest of 
the intent spectator, if he can so construct the 
elements of increasing interest that the question, 
" What is happening at the other place ? " arises 
and at the same moment the spectator is transferred 
whither he wishes to go, then the editing thus 
created can really excite the spectator. One must 
learn to understand that editing is in actual fact a 
compulsory and deliberate guidance of the thoughts 
and associations of the spectator. If the editing be 
merely an uncontrolled combination of the various 
pieces, the spectator will understand (apprehend) 
nothing from it ; but if it be co-ordinated according 
to a definitely selected course of events or conceptual 
line, either agitated or calm, it will either excite or 
soothe the spectator. 


The film is divided into reels. The reels are 
usually equal in length, on an average from 900 to 


1,200 feet long. The combination of the reels forms 
the picture. The usual length of a picture should 
not be more than from 6,500 to 7,500 feet. This 
length, as yet, involves no unnecessary exhaustion 
of the spectator. The film is usually divided into 
from six to eight reels. It should be noted here, as a 
practical hint, that the average length of a piece 
(remember the editing of scenes) is from 6 to 10 feet, 
and consequently from 100 to 150 pieces go to a 
reel. By orientating himself on these figures, the 
scenarist can visualise how much material can be 
fitted into the scenario. The scenario is composed 
of a series of sequences. In discussing the con- 
struction (editing) of the scenario from sequences, 
we introduce a new element into the scenarist's 
work — the element of so-called dramatic con- 
tinuity of action that was discussed at the beginning 
of this sketch. The continuity of the separate 
sequences when joined together depends not merely 
upon the simple transference of attention from one 
place to another, but is conditioned by the develop- 
ment of the action forming the foundation of the 
scenario. It is important, however, to remind the 
scenarist of the following point : a scenario has 
always in its development a moment of greatest 
tension, found nearly always at the end of the film. 
To prepare the spectator, or, more correctly, 
preserve him, for this final tension, it is especially 
important to see that he is not affected by unneces- 
sary exhaustion during the course of the film. A 
method, already discussed, that the scenarist can 


employ to this end is the careful distribution of the 
titles (which always distract the spectator), securing 
compression of the greater quantity of them into the 
first reels, and leaving the last one for uninterrupted 

Thus, first is worked out the action of the scenario, 
the action is then worked out into sequences, the 
sequences into scenes, and these constructed by 
editing from the pieces, each corresponding to a 
camera angle. 


(Relational Editing) 

We have already mentioned, in the section on 
editing of sequences, that editing is not merely a 
method of the junction of separate scenes or pieces, 
but is a method that controls the " psychological 
guidance " of the spectator. We should now 
acquaint ourselves with the main special editing 
methods having as their aim the impression of the 

Contrast. — Suppose it be our task to tell of the 
miserable situation of a starving man ; the story will 
impress the more vividly if associated with mention 
of the senseless gluttony of a well-to-do man. 

On just such a simple contrast relation is based 
the corresponding editing method. On the screen 
the impression of this contrast is yet increased, for it 
is possible not only to relate the starving sequence 
to the gluttony sequence, but also to relate separate 


scenes and even separate shots of the scenes to one 
another, thus, as it were, forcing the spectator to 
compare the two actions all the time, one strengthen- 
ing the other. The editing of contrast is one of the 
most effective, but also one of the commonest and 
most standardised, of methods, and so care should 
be taken not to overdo it. 

Parallelism. — This method resembles contrast, but 
is considerably wider. Its substance can be ex- 
plained more clearly by an example. In a scenario 
as yet unproduced a section occurs as follows : 
a working man, one of the leaders of a strike, is 
condemned to death ; the execution is fixed for 
5 a.m. The sequence is edited thus : a factory- 
owner, employer of the condemned man, is leaving 
a restaurant drunk, he looks at his wrist-watch : 
4 o'clock. The accused is shown — he is being 
made ready to be led out. Again the manufac- 
turer, he rings a door-bell to ask the time : 4.30. 
The prison waggon drives along the street under 
heavy guard. The maid who opens the door — the 
wife of the condemned — is subjected to a sudden 
senseless assault. The drunken factory-owner snores 
on a bed, his leg with trouser-end upturned, his 
hand hanging down with wrist-watch visible, the 
hands of the watch crawl slowly to 5 o'clock. The 
workman is being hanged. In this instance two 
thematically unconnected incidents develop in 
parallel by means of the watch that tells of the 
approaching execution. The watch on the wrist of 
the callous brute, as it were connects him with the 


chief protagonist of the approaching tragic denoue- 
ment, thus ever present in the consciousness of the 
spectator. This is undoubtedly an interesting 
method, capable of considerable development. 

Symbolism. — In the final scenes of the film Strike 
the shooting down of workmen is punctuated by 
shots of the slaughter of a bull in a stockyard. The 
scenarist, as it were, desires to say : just as a butcher 
fells a bull with the swing of a pole-axe, so, cruelly 
and in cold blood, were shot down the workers. 
This method is especially interesting because, by 
means of editing, it introduces an abstract concept 
into the consciousness of the spectator without use 
of a title. 

Simultaneity. — In American films the final section 
is constructed from the simultaneous rapid develop- 
ment of two actions, in which the outcome of one 
depends on the outcome of the other. The end of 
the present-day section of Intolerance, already quoted, 
is thus constructed. 27 The whole aim of this method 
is to create in the spectator a maximum tension of 
excitement by the constant forcing of a question, 
such as, in this case : Will they be in time ?^— will 
they be in time ? 

The method is a purely emotional one, and now- 
adays overdone almost to the point of boredom, but 
it cannot be denied that of all the methods of con- 
structing the end hitherto devised it is the most 

Leit-motif {reiteration of theme) . — Often it is interest- 
ing for the scenarist especially to emphasise the 


basic theme of the scenario. For this purpose exists 
the method of reiteration. Its nature can easily be 
demonstrated by an example. In an anti-religious 
scenario that aimed at exposing the cruelty and 
hypocrisy of the Church in employ of the Tsarist 
regime the same shot was several times repeated : 
a church-bell slowly ringing and, superimposed on 
it, the title : " The sound of bells sends into the 
world a message of patience and love." This 
piece appeared whenever the scenarist desired to 
emphasise the stupidity of patience, or the hypocrisy 
of the love thus preached. 

The little that has been said above of relational 
editing naturally by no means exhausts the whole 
abundance of its methods. It has merely been 
important to show that constructional editing, a 
method specifically and peculiarly filmic, is, in the 
hands of the scenarist, an important instrument of 
impression. Careful study of its use in pictures, 
combined with talent, will undoubtedly lead to the 
discovery of new possibilities and, in conjunction 
with them, to the creation of new forms. 

(First published as Number Three of a series of popular scientific 
film handbooks by Kinopetchat, Moscow and Leningrad, 1926.) 




Part I 


IN the earliest years of its existence the film 
was no more than an interesting invention 
that made it possible to record movements, 
a faculty denied to simple photography. On the 
film, the appearances of all possible movements could 
be seized and fixed. The first films consisted of 
primitive attempts to fix upon the celluloid, as a 
novelty, the movements of a train, crowds passing by 
upon the street, a landscape seen from a railway- 
carriage window, and so forth. Thus, in the begin- 
ning, the film was, from its nature, only " living 
photography." The first attempts to relate cinema- 
tography to the world of art were naturally bound 
up with the Theatre. Similarly only as a novelty, 
like the shots of the railway-engine and the moving 
sea, primitive scenes of comic or dramatic character, 
played by actors, began to be recorded. The film 
public appeared. There grew up a whole series of 
relatively small, specialised theatres in which these 
primitive films were shown. 

The film now began to assume all the charac- 
teristics of an industry (and indeed a very profitable 

c* 51 


one). The great significance was realised of the 
fact that from a single negative can be printed 
many positives, and that by this means a reel of film 
can be multiplied like a book, and spread broadcast 
in many copies. 28 Great possibilities began to open 
themselves out. No longer was the film regarded 
as a mere novelty. The first experiments in record- 
ing serious and significant material appeared. The 
relationship with the Theatre could not, however, 
yet be dissolved, and it is easy to understand how, 
once again, the first steps of the film producer 
consisted in attempts to carry plays over on to 
celluloid. It seemed at that time to be especially 
interesting to endow the theatrical performance — 
the work of the actor, whose art had hitherto been 
but transitory, and real only in the moment of 
perception by the spectator — with the quality of 

The film remained, as before, but living photo- 
graphy. Art did not enter into the work of him who 
made it. He only photographed the " art of the 
actor." Of a peculiar method for the film actor, of 
peculiar and special properties of the film or of tech- 
nique in shooting the picture for the director, there 
could as yet be no suspicion. How, then, did the 
film director of that time work ? At his disposal was 
a scenario, exactly resembling the play written for 
the Theatre by the playwright ; only the words of 
the characters were missing, and these, as far as 
possible, were replaced by dumb show, and some- 
times by long-winded titles. The director played the 


scene through in its exact theatrical sequence ; he 
recorded the walkings to and fro, the entrances and 
exits of the actors. He took the scene thus played- 
through as a whole, while the cameraman, always 
turning, fixed it as a whole upon the celluloid. The 
process of shooting could not be conceived of other- 
wise, for as director's material served these same real 
persons — actors — with whom one worked also in 
the Theatre ; the camera served only for the simple 
fixation of scenes already completely arranged and 
definitely planned. The pieces of film shot were 
stuck together in simple temporal sequence of the 
developing action, just as the act of a play is formed 
from scenes, and then were presented to the public as 
a picture. To sum up in short, the work of the film 
director differed in no wise from that of the theatrical 

A play, exactly recorded upon celluloid and pro- 
jected upon a screen, with the actors deprived of 
their words — that was the film of those early days. 


The Americans were the first to discover in the film- 
play the presence of peculiar possibilities of its own. 
It was perceived that the film can not only make a 
simple record of the events passing before the lens, 
but that it is in a position to reproduce them upon 
the screen by special methods, proper only to itself. 

Let us take as example a demonstration that files 
by upon the street. Let us picture to ourselves an 
observer of that demonstration. In order to receive 


a clear and definite impression of the demonstration, 
the observer must perform certain actions. First he 
must climb upon the roof of a house, to get a view 
from above of the procession as a whole and measure 
its dimensions ; next he must come down and look 
out through the first-floor window at the inscriptions 
on the banners carried by the demonstrators ; finally, 
he must mingle with the crowd, to gain an idea of 
the outward appearance of the participants. 

Three times the observer has altered his view- 
point, gazing now from nearer, now from farther 
away, with the purpose of acquiring as complete 
and exhaustive as possible a picture of the pheno- 
menon under review. The Americans were the first 
to seek to replace an active observer of this kind by 
means of the camera. They showed in their work that 
it was not only possible to record the scene shot, but 
that by manoeuvring with the camera itself — in such 
a way that its position in relation to the object shot 
varied several times — it was made possible to repro- 
duce the same scene in far clearer and more expres- 
sive form than with the lens playing the part of a 
theatre spectator sitting fast in his stall. The camera, 
until now a motionless spectator, at last received, as 
it were, a charge of life. It acquired the faculty of 
movement on its own, and transformed itself from a 
spectator to an active observer. Henceforward the 
camera, controlled by the director, could not merely 
enable the spectator to see the object shot, but could 
induce him to apprehend it. 

It was at this moment that the concepts close-up, 


mid-shot, and long-shot first appeared in cinemato- 
graphy, concepts that later played an enormous part 
in the creative craft of editing, the basis of the work 
of film direction. Now, for the first time, became 
apparent the difference between the theatrical pro- 
ducer and his colleague of the film. In the beginning 
the material with which both theatrical producer 
and film director worked was identical. The same 
actors playing through in their same sequence the 
same scenes, which were but shorter, and, at the 
most, unaccompanied by words. The technique of 
acting for the films differed in no respect from that 
of stage-acting. The only problem was the replace- 
ment, as comprehensibly as possible, of words by 
gestures. That was the time when the film was 
rightly named " a substitute for the stage." 


But, with the grasping of the concept editing, the 
position became basically altered. The real material 
of film-art proved to be not those actual scenes on 
which the lens of the camera is directed. The 
theatrical producer has always to do only with real 
processes — they are his material. His finally com- 
posed and created work — the scene produced and 
played upon the stage — is equally a real and actual 
process, that takes place in obedience to the laws of 
real space and real time. When a stage-actor finds 
himself at one end of the stage, he cannot cross to 
the other without taking a certain necessary number 
of paces. And crossings and intervals of this kind are 


a thing indispensable, conditioned by the laws of real 
space and real time, with which the theatrical pro- 
ducer has always to reckon, and which he is never 
in a position to overstep. In fact, in work with 
real processes, a whole series of intervals linking the 
separate significant points of action are unavoidable. 

If, on the other hand, we consider the work of 
the film director, then it appears that the active raw 
material is no other than those pieces of celluloid on 
which, from various viewpoints, the separate move- 
ments of the action have been shot. From nothing 
but these pieces is created those appearances upon 
the screen that form the filmic representation of 
the action shot. And thus the material of the film 
director consists not of real processes happening in 
real space and real time, but of those pieces of cellu- 
loid on which these processes have been recorded. 
This celluloid is entirely subject to the will of the 
director who edits it. He can, in the composition of 
the filmic form of any given appearance, eliminate 
all points of interval, and thus concentrate the action 
in time to the highest degree he may require. 

This method of temporal concentration, the concen- 
tration of action by the elimination of unnecessary 
points of interval, occurs also, in a more simplified 
form, in the Theatre. It finds its expression in the 
construction of a play from acts. The element of 
play-construction by which several years are made 
to pass between the first and second act is, properly, 
an analogous temporal concentration of the action. 
In the film this method is not only pursued to a 


maximum, it forms the actual basis of filmic repre- 
sentation. Though it is possible for the theatrical 
producer temporally to approach two neighbouring 
acts, he is, none the less, unable to do the same with 
separate incidents in a single scene. 29 

The film director, on the contrary, can concen- 
trate in time not only separate incidents, but even 
the movements of a single person. This process, that 
has often been termed a " film trick/' is, in fact, 
nothing other than the characteristic method of 
filmic representation. 

In order to show on the screen the fall of a man 
from a window five stories high, the shots can be 
taken in the following way : 

First the man is shot falling from the window into 
a net, in such a way that the net is not visible on 
the screen 30 ; then the same man is shot falling from 
a slight height to the ground. Joined together, the 
two shots give in projection the desired impression. 
The catastrophic fall never occurs in reality, it occurs 
only on the screen, and is the resultant of two pieces 
of celluloid joined together. From the event of a 
real, actual fall of a person from an appalling height, 
two points only are selected : the beginning of the 
fall and its end. The intervening passage through 
the air is eliminated. It is not correct to call the 
process a trick ; it is a method of filmic representa- 
tion exactly corresponding to the elimination of the 
five years that divide a first act from a second upon 
the stage. 

From the example of the observer watching the 


demonstration pass by on the street, we learned that 
the process of film-shooting may be not only a simple 
fixation of the event taking place before the lens, but 
also a peculiar form of representation of this event. 
Between the natural event and its appearance upon 
the screen there is a marked difference. It is exactly 
this difference that makes the film an art. Guided by the 
director, the camera assumes the task of removing 
every superfluity and directing the attention of the 
spectator in such a way that he shall see only that 
which is significant and characteristic. When the 
demonstration was shot, the camera, after having 
viewed the crowd from above in the long-shot, forced 
its way into the press and picked out the most 
characteristic details. These details were not the 
result of chance, they were selected, and, moreover, 
selected in such a way that from their sum, as from 
a sum of separate elements, the image of the whole 
action could be assembled. Let us suppose, for 
instance, that the demonstration to be recorded is 
characterised by its component detail : first Red 
soldiers, then workmen, and finally Pioneers. 31 
Suppose the film technician try to show the spectator 
the detail composition of this demonstration by 
simply setting the camera at a fixed point and letting 
the crowd go by unbroken before the lens, then he 
will force the spectator to spend exactly as much 
time in watching the representation as he would 
have needed to let the crowd itself go by. By taking 
the procession in this way he would force the spec- 
tator to apprehend the mass of detail as it streamed 


past. But, by the use of that method peculiar to 
films, three short pieces can be taken separately : 
the Red soldiers, the workmen, and the Pioneers. 
The combination of these separate pieces with the 
general view of the crowd provides an image of the 
demonstration from which no element is lacking. 
The spectator is enabled to appreciate both its 
composition and its dimension, only the time in 
which he effects that appreciation is altered. 


Created by the camera, obedient to the will of 
the director — after the cutting and joining of the 
separate pieces of celluloid — there arises a new 
filmic time ; not that real time embraced by the 
phenomenon as it takes place before the camera, 
but a new filmic time, conditioned only by the speed 
of perception and controlled by the number and 
duration of the separate elements selected for filmic 
representation of the action. 

Every action takes place not only in time, but also 
in space. Filmic time is distinguished from actual 
in that it is dependent only on the lengths of the 
separate pieces of celluloid joined together by the 
director. Like time, so also is filmic space bound 
up with the chief process of film-making, editing. 
By the junction of the separate pieces the director 
builds a filmic space entirely his own. He unites 
and compresses separate elements, that have perhaps 
been recorded by him at differing points of real, 
actual space, into one filmic space. By virtue of the 


possibility of eliminating points of passage and 
interval, which we have already analysed and which 
obtains in all film-work, filmic space appears as a 
synthesis of real elements picked out by the camera. 

Remember the example of the man falling from 
the fifth floor. That which is in reality but a ten- 
foot fall into a net and a six-foot further leap from 
a bench appears upon the screen as a fall from a 
hundred feet high. 

L. V. Kuleshov assembled in the year 1920 the 
following scenes as an experiment : 

1. A young man walks from left to right. 

2. A woman walks from right to left. 

3. They meet and shake hands. The young man 

4. A large white building is shown, with a broad 
flight of steps. 

5. The two ascend the steps. 

The pieces, separately shot, were assembled in 
the order given and projected upon the screen. The 
spectator was presented with the pieces thus joined 
as one clear, uninterrupted action : a meeting of 
two young people, an invitation to a nearby house, 
and an entry into it. Every single piece, however, 
had been shot in a different place ; for example, the 
young man near the G.U.M. building, the woman 
near Gogol's monument, the handshake near the 
Bolshoi Teatr, the white house came out of an 
American picture (it was, in fact, the White House), 
and the ascent of the steps was made at St. Saviour's 


Cathedral. What happened as a result? Though 
the shooting had been done in varied locations, the 
spectator perceived the scene as a whole. The parts 
of real space picked out by the camera appeared 
concentrated, as it were, upon the screen. There 
resulted what Kuleshov termed " creative geo- 
graphy." By the process of junction of pieces of 
celluloid appeared a new, filmic space without 
existence in reality. Buildings separated by a dis- 
tance of thousands of miles were concentrated to a 
space that could be covered by a few paces of the 


We have now established the chief points in the 
difference between the work of the film director and 
that of the theatrical producer. This difference lies 
in the distinction of material. The theatrical pro- 
ducer works with real actuality, which, though he 
may always remould, yet forces him to remain bound 
by the laws of real space and real time. The film 
director, on the other hand, has as his material 
the finished, recorded celluloid. This material from 
which his final work is composed consists not of 
living men or real landscapes, not of real, actual 
stage-sets, but only of their images, recorded on 
separate strips that can be shortened, altered, and 
asembled according to his will. The elements of 
reality are fixed on these pieces ; by combining them 
in his selected sequence, shortening and lengthening 
them according to his desire, the director builds up 
his own " filmic " time and " filmic " space. He 


does not adapt reality, but uses it for the creation 
of a new reality, and the most characteristic and 
important aspect of this process is that, in it, laws of 
space and time invariable and inescapable in work 
with actuality become tractable and obedient. The 
film assembles the elements of reality to build from 
them a new reality proper only to itself; and the 
laws of space and time, that, in work with living 
men, with sets and the footage of the stage, are fixed 
and fast, are, in the film, entirely altered. Filmic 
space and filmic time, the creation of the technician, 
are entirely subject to the director. The basic 
method of filmic representation, this construction of 
the unity of a film from separate pieces or elements, 
the superfluous among which can be eliminated and 
only the characteristic and significant retained, offers 
exceptional possibilities. 

Everyone knows that the nearer we approach a 
regarded object, the less material appears simul- 
taneously in our view-field ; the more clearly our 
investigating glance examines an object, the more 
details we perceive and the more limited and sec- 
tional becomes our view. We no longer perceive 
the object as a whole, but pick out the details with 
our glance in order, thus receiving by association 
an impression of the whole that is far more vivid, 
deeper, and sharper than if we had gazed at the 
object from a distance and perceived the whole in 
a general view, inevitably missing detail in so doing. 
When we wish to apprehend anything, we always 
begin with the general outlines, and then, by 


intensifying our examination to the highest degree, 
enrich the apprehension by an ever-increasing 
number of details. The particular, the detail, will 
always be a synonym of intensification. It is upon 
this that the strength of the film depends, that its 
characteristic speciality is the possibility of giving a 
clear, especially vivid representation of detail. The 
power of filmic representation lies in the fact that, 
by means of the camera, it continually strives to 
penetrate as deeply as possible, to the mid-point of 
every image. The camera, as it were, forces itself, 
ever striving, into the profoundest deeps of life ; it 
strives thither to penetrate, whither the average 
spectator never reaches as he glances casually around 
him. The camera goes deeper ; anything it can see 
it approaches, and thereafter eternalises upon the 
celluloid. When we approach a given, real image, 
we must spend a definite effort and time upon it, in 
advancing from the general to the particular, in 
intensifying our attention to that point at which we 
begin to remark and apprehend details. By the 
process of editing the film removes, eliminates, this 
effort. The film spectator is an ideal, perspicuous 
observer. And it is the director who makes him so. 
In the discovered, deeply embedded detail there lies 
an element of perception, the creative element that 
characterises as art the work of man, the sole element 
that gives the event shown its final worth. 

To show something as everyone sees it is to have 
accomplished nothing. Not that material that is 
embraced in a first, casual, merely general and 


superficial glance is required, but that which dis- 
closes itself to an intent and searching glance, that 
can and will see deeper. This is the reason why the 
greatest artists, those technicians who feel the film 
most acutely, deepen their work with details. To 
do this they discard the general aspect of the image, 
and the points of interval that are the inevitable 
concomitant of every natural event. The theatrical 
producer, in working with his material, is not in a 
position to remove from the view of the spectator 
that background, that mass of general and inevitable 
outline, that surrounds the characteristic and parti- 
cular details. He can only underline the most 
essential, leaving the spectator himself to concentrate 
upon what he underlines. The film technician, 
equipped with his camera, is infinitely more powerful. 
The attention of the spectator is entirely in his hands. 
The lens of the camera is the eye of the spectator. 
He sees and remarks only that which the direc- 
tor desires to show him, or, more correctly put, 
that which the director himself sees in the action 


In the disappearance of the general, obvious out- 
line and the appearance on the screen of some deeply 
hidden detail, filmic representation attains the 
highest point of its power of external expression. 
The film, by showing him the detail without its back- 
ground, releases the spectator from the unnecessary 
task of eliminating superfluities from his view-field. 


By eliminating distraction it spares the spectator's 
energy, and reaches thereby the clearest and most 
marked effect. As example we shall take some 
instances from well-known films in which notable 
directors have attained great strength of expression. 
As example, the trial scene in Griffith's Intolerance. 
Here there is a scene in which a woman hears the 
death sentence passed on her husband, who is 
innocent of the crime. The director shows the face 
of the woman : an anxious, trembling smile through 
tears. Suddenly the spectator sees for an instant 
her hands, only her hands, the fingers convulsively 
gripping the skin. This is one of the most powerful 
moments in the film. Not for a minute did we see 
the whole figure, but only the face, and the hands. 
And it is perhaps by virtue of this fact that the 
director understood how to choose and to show, from 
the mass of real material available, only these two 
characteristic details, that he attained the wonderful 
power of impression notable in this scene. Here 
once more we encounter the process, mentioned 
above, of clear selection, the possibility of the 
elimination of those insignificances that fulfil only 
a transition function and are always inseparable from 
reality, and of the retention only of climactic 
and dramatic points. Exactly upon this possibility 
depends the essence of the significance of editing, 
the basic process of filmic creation. Confusion by 
linkage and wastage by intervals are inevitable 
attributes of reality. When a spectator is dealing 
with actuality he can overcome them only by a given 


effort of attention. He rests his glance on a face, 
then lets it glide down the body until finally it rests 
attentively on the hands — this is what a spectator 
has to do when looking at a real woman in real 

The film spares this work of stopping and down- 
ward-gliding. Thus the spectator spends no super- 
fluous energy. By elimination of the points of 
interval the director endows the spectator with the 
energy preserved, he charges him, and thus the 
appearance assembled from a series of significant 
details is stronger in force of expression from the 
screen than is the appearance in actuality. 

We now perceive that the work of the film director 
has a double character. For the construction of 
filmic form he requires proper material ; if he wishes 
to work filmically, he cannot and must not record 
reality as it presents itself to the actual, average 
onlooker. To create a filmic form, he must select 
those elements from which this form will later be 
assembled. To assemble these elements, he must first 
find them. And now we hit on the necessity for a 
special process of analysis of every real event that 
the director wishes to use in a shot. For every event 
a process has to be carried out comparable to the 
process in mathematics termed " differentiation " — 
that is to say, dissection into parts or elements. Here 
the technique of observation links up with the 
creative process of the selection of the characteristic 
elements necessary for the future finished work. In 
order to represent the woman in the court scene, 


Griffith probably imagined, he may even have 
actually seen, dozens of despairing women, and 
perceived not only their heads and hands, but he 
selected from the whole images only the smile 
through tears and the convulsive hands, creating 
from them an unforgettable filmic picture. 

Another example. In that filmically outstanding 
work, The Battleship " Potemkin" 32 Eisenstein shot 
the massacre of the mob on the great flight of steps 
in Odessa. 33 The running of the mob down the steps 
is rendered rather sparingly and is not especially 
expressive, but the perambulator with the baby, 
which, loosed from the grip of the shot mother, rolls 
down the steps, is poignant in its tragic intensity and 
strikes with the force of a blow. This perambulator 
is a detail, just like the boy with the broken skull in 
the same film. Analytically dissected, the mass of 
people offered a wide field for the creative work of 
the director, and the details correctly discovered 
in editing resulted in episodes remarkable in their 
expressive power. 

Another example, simpler, but quite characteristic 
for film-work : how should one show a motor-car 
accident ? — a man being run over. 

The real material is thoroughly abundant and 
complex. There is the street, the motor-car, the 
man crossing the street, the car running him down, 
the startled chauffeur, the brakes, the man under 
the wheels, the car carried forward by its impetus, 
and, finally, the corpse. In actuality everything 
occurs in unbroken sequence. How was this material 


worked out by an American director in the film 
Daddy ? The separate pieces were assembled on the 
screen in the following sequence : 

1 . The street with cars in movement : a pedes- 
trian crosses the street with his back to the camera ; 
a passing motor-car hides him from view. 

2. Very short flash : the face of the startled 
chauffeur as he steps on the brake. 

3. Equally short flash : the face of the victim, 
his mouth open in a scream. 

4. Taken from above, from the chauffeur's seat : 
legs, glimpsed near the revolving wheels. 

5. The sliding, braked wheels of the car. 

6. The corpse by the stationary car. 

The separate pieces are cut together in short, very 
sharp rhythm. In order to represent the accident 
on the screen, the director dissected analytically 
the whole abundant scene, unbroken in actual 
development, into component parts, into elements, 
and selected from them — sparingly — only the six 
essential. And these not only prove sufficient, but 
render exhaustively the whole poignancy of the event 

In the work of the mathematician there follows 
after dissection into elements, after " differentiation," 
a combination of the discovered separate elements 
to a whole — the so-called " integration." 

In the work of the film director the process of 
analysis, the dissection into elements, forms equally 
only a point of departure, which has to be followed by 


the assemblage of the whole from the discovered 
parts. The finding of the elements, the details of the 
action, implies only the completion of a preparatory 
task. It must be remembered that from these parts 
the complete work is finally to emerge, for, as said 
above, the real motor-car accident might be dis- 
sected by the onlooker into dozens, perhaps indeed 
hundreds, of separate incidents. The director, how- 
ever, chooses only six of them. He makes a selection, 
and this selection is naturally conditioned in advance 
by that filmic image of the accident — happening not 
in reality but on the screen — which, of course, exists 
in the head of the director long before its actual 
appearance on the screen. 


The work of the director is characterised by 
thinking in filmic pictures ; by imagining events 
in that form in which, composed of pieces joined 
together in a certain sequence, they will appear upon 
the screen ; by considering real incidents only as 
material from which to select separate characteristic 
elements ; and by building a new filmic reality out 
of them. Even when he has to do with real objects in 
real surroundings he thinks only of their appearances 
upon the screen. He never considers a real object in 
the sense of its actual, proper nature, but considers 
in it only those properties that can be carried over on 
to celluloid. The film director looks only conditionally 
upon his material, and this conditionally is extra- 
ordinarily specific ; it arises from a whole series of 


properties peculiar only to the film. Even while 
being shot, a film must be thought of already as an 
editable sequence of separate pieces of celluloid. The 
filmic form is never identical with the real appear- 
ance, but only similar to it. When the director 
establishes the content and sequence of the separate 
elements that he is to combine later to filmic form, he 
must calculate exactly not only the content, but the 
length of each piece, or, in other words, he must 
regard it as an element of filmic space and filmic 
time. Let us suppose that before us lie, haphazard 
on the table, those separate pieces of material that 
were shot to represent that scene of the motor-car 
accident described above. The essential thing is to 
unite these pieces and to join them into one long 
strip of film. Naturally we can join them in any 
desired order. Let us imagine an intentionally 
absurd order — for example, the following : 

Beginning with the shot of the motor-car, we cut 
into the middle of it the legs of the man run over, 
then the man crossing the street, and finally the face 
of the chauffeur. The result is a senseless medley of 
pieces that produces in the spectator an impression 
of chaos. And rational order will only be brought 
into the alternation of pieces when they are at least 
conditioned by that sequence with which a chance 
observer would have been able to let his glance and 
attention wander from object to object ; only then 
will relation appear between the pieces, and their 
combination, having received organic unity, be 
effective on the screen. But it is not sufficient that 


the pieces be united in definite order. Every event 
takes place not only in space, but in time, and, just 
as filmic space is created, as we saw, by the junction 
in sequence of selected pieces, so must also be 
created, moulded from the elements of real time, a 
new filmic time. Let us suppose that, at the junction 
of the pieces shot to represent the accident, no 
thought has been given to their proportionate 
lengths ; in result the editing is as follows : 

1. Someone crosses the street. 

2. Long : the face of the chauffeur at his brake. 

3. Equally long : the screaming, wide-open 
mouth of the victim. 

4. The braked wheel and all the other pieces 
shown similarly in very long strips. 

A reel of film cut in this way would, even in correct 
spacial sequence, appear absurd to the spectator. 
The car would appear to travel slowly. The 
inherently short process of running-over would be 
disproportionately and incomprehensibly drawn out. 
The event would disappear from the screen, leaving 
only the projection of some chance material. Only 
when the right length has been found for every 
piece, building a rapid, almost convulsive rhythm of 
picture alternation, analogous to the panic glance, 
thrown this way and that, of an observer mastered 
by horror, only then will the screen breathe a life of 
its own imparted to it by the director. And this 
is because the appearance created by the director is 
enclosed, not only in filmic space, but also in filmic 


time, integrated from elements of real time picked 
from actuality by the camera. Editing is the lan- 
guage of the film director. Just as in living speech, 
so, one may say, in editing : there is a word — the 
piece of exposed film, the image ; a phrase — the 
combination of these pieces. Only by his editing 
methods can one judge a director's individuality. 
Just as each writer has his own individual style, so 
each film director has his own individual method of 
representation. The editing junction of the pieces 
in creatively discovered sequence is already a final 
and completing process whose result is the attainment 
of a final creation, the finished film. And it is with 
this process in mind that the director must attend 
also to the formation of these most elementary of 
pieces (corresponding to the words in speech), from 
which later the edited phrases — the incidents and 
sequences — will be formed. 


The organising work of the director is not limited 
to editing. Quite a number of film technicians 
maintain that editing should be the only organising 
medium of the film. They hold that the pieces can 
be shot anyhow and anywhere, the images must only 
be interesting ; afterwards, by simply joining them 
according to their form and kind, a way will be 
found to assemble them to a film. 34 If any unifying 
idea be taken as basis of the editing, the material 
will no doubt be organised to a certain degree. A 
whole series of shots taken at hazard in Moscow can 


be joined to a whole, and all the separate shots will 
be united by their place of taking — the town of 
Moscow. The spacial grasp of the camera can be 
narrowed to any desired degree ; a series of figures 
and happenings can be taken on the market-place 
and then finally in a room where a meeting is being 
held, and in all these shots there will undoubtedly 
be an organising embryo, but the question is how 
deeply it will be developed. Such a collection of 
shots can be compared to a newspaper, in which the 
enormous abundance of news is divided into sections 
and columns. The collection of news of all the 
happenings in the world, given in the newspaper, is 
organised and systematised. But this same news, 
used in an article or a book, is organised in an even 
higher degree. In the process of creating a film, the 
work of organisation can and must extend more 
widely and deeply than the mere establishment of a 
hard and fast editing scheme of representation. The 
separate pieces must be brought into organic relation 
with each other, and for this purpose their content 
must be considered in the shooting as a deepening, 
as an advancement, of the whole editing construction 
into the inner depth of each separate element of this 

In considering certain of our examples, we have 
had to deal with events and appearances that take 
place before the camera independent of the will of 
the director. The shooting of the demonstration was, 
after all, only a selection of scenes of real actuality, 
not created by the director, but picked out by him 


from the hurly-burly flow of life. But, in order to 
produce an edited representation of a given action, 
in order to take some piece of reality not specially 
arranged by him in editable form, the director must 
none the less, in one way or another, subordinate 
this action to his will. Even in the shooting of this 
demonstration we had, if we wished to render as vivid 
as possible a scenic representation of it, to insinuate 
ourselves with the camera into the crowd itself and 
to get specially selected, typical persons to walk past 
the lens just for the purpose of being taken, thus 
arbitrarily interfering with the natural course of 
events in order to make them serve for subsequent 
filmic representation. 35 

If we use a more complex example we shall see 
even more clearly that in order to shoot and filmically 
represent any given action we must subject it to our 
control — that is, it must be possible for us to bring 
it to a standstill, to repeat it several times, each time 
shooting a new detail, and so forth. Suppose we 
wish editably to shoot the take-off of an aeroplane. 
For its filmic representation we select the following 
elements : 

i. The pilot seats himself at the controls. 

2. The hand of the pilot makes contact. 

3. The mechanic swings the propeller. 

4. The aeroplane rolls towards the camera. 

5. The take-off itself shot from another position 
so that the aeroplane travels away from the 
camera as it leaves the ground. 


In order to shoot in editable form so simple an 
action as a take-off, we must either stop after the 
first movement of the aeroplane, and, having quickly 
changed the position of the camera, placing it at 
the tail-end of the machine, take the continuation 
of the movement, or we must unavoidably repeat 
the movement of the aeroplane twice ; once let it 
travel towards the camera, and, the second time, 
changing the set-up, away from the camera. 

In both cases we must, in order to obtain the filmic 
representation desired, interrupt the natural course 
of the action, either by stopping or by repetition. 
Almost invariably, in shooting a dynamically con- 
tinuous action, we must, if we wish to obtain from 
it the necessary details, either stop it by interruption 
or repeat it several times. In such a way we must 
always make our action dependent on the will of 
the director, even in the shooting of the simplest 
events that have nothing to do with " artistic " 
direction. If we chose not to interfere with the 
natural unfolding of the real event, then we should be 
knowingly making the film impossible. We should 
have left nothing but a slavish fixation of the event, 
excluding all possibility of using such advantages 
of filmic representation as the particularisation of 
details and the elimination of superfluous transitory 


We now turn to a new side of directorial work — 
namely, the methods of organisation of the material 


to be shot. Suppose the director to be concerned 
only in making an industrial film (the work of a 
factory, large workshop, or institution), a subject 
which would appear to consist only in the fixation of 
a number of processes not requiring his interference 
as director, even so his work consists of something 
more than the simple setting up of the camera and 
shooting the machines and people at work from 
various angles. In order to finish up with a really 
filmically clear, editable representation, the director 
is, with each separate process he shoots, inevitably 
compelled to interrupt and interfere, guided by a 
clear perception of that editing sequence in which 
he will later project the pieces on the screen. The 
director must introduce into his work the element 
of direction, the element of a special organisation of 
every action shot, the goal of which organisation is 
the clearest and most exact possible recording of 
characteristic details. 

But when we go on to the shooting of so-called 
" dramatic " subjects, then naturally the element of 
direction, the element of organisation of the material 
to be shot, becomes yet more important and indis- 
pensable. In order to shoot all the essentials of the 
filmic representation of the motor-car accident, the 
director had many times to alter the position of his 
camera ; he had to make the motor-car, the chauf- 
feur, and the victim carry out their separate and 
essential movements many times. In the direction 
of a dramatic film very often an event shown on the 
screen never had existence as a whole in reality. It 


has been present only in the head, in the imagination 
of the director, as he sought the necessary elements 
for the later filmic form. 

Here we come to the consideration of that which 
must be shot in the limits of one uninterrupted piece 
of celluloid, in the limits of one " shot," as the 
technical term has it. Work in the limits of one shot 
is naturally dependent on real space and real time ; 
it is work with single elements of filmic space and 
filmic time ; and is naturally directly conditioned by 
the cutting later to be carried out. In order to 
arouse in the spectator the necessary excited impres- 
sion, the director, in editing the motor-car accident, 
built up a disturbed rhythm, effected by the excep- 
tionally short lengths of each single piece. But 
remember, the desired material cannot be got by 
merely cutting or abruptly shortening the pieces of 
celluloid ; the necessary length into which the con- 
tent of each piece had to fit must have been borne in 
mind when it was shot. Let us suppose that it is our 
task to shoot and edit a disturbed, excited scene, 
that accordingly makes necessary quick change of 
the short pieces. In shooting, however, the scenes 
and parts of scenes are acted before the lens very 
slowly and lethargically. Then, in selecting the 
pieces and trying to edit them, we shall be faced 
by an insuperable obstacle. Short pieces must be 
used, but the action that takes place in the limits 
of each separate piece proves to be so slow that, 
to reach the necessary shortness of each piece, we 
must cut, remove part of the action ; while, if 


we preserve the shots entire, the pieces prove 
too long. 


Let us imagine that the camera, embracing in its 
view-field a wide area, for example two persons 
talking to one another, suddenly approaches one of 
the characters and shows some detail important 
to the development of the action and, at the 
given moment, particularly characteristic. Then the 
camera withdraws once more and the spectator sees 
the further development of the scene in long-shot 
as previously, both persons of the action being found 
again in the field of view. It must be emphasised 
that the spectator only derives an impression of 
unbroken development of the action when the tran- 
sition from long-shot to close-up (and reverse) is 
associated with a movement common to the two 
pieces. For example, if as detail concerned is 
selected a hand drawing a revolver from a pocket 
during the conversation, the scene must infallibly 
be shot as follows : the first long-shot ends with a 
movement of the hand of the actor reaching for 
his pocket ; in the following close-up, showing the 
hand alone, the movement begun is completed and 
the hand gets out the revolver ; then back to the 
long-shot, in which the hand with the revolver, 
continuing the movement from the pocket begun 
at the end of the close-up, aims the weapon at its 
adversary. Such linkage by movement is the essen- 
tial desideratum in that form of editing construction 


in which the object taken is not removed from the 
view-field at a change of set-up. Now, all three 
pieces are shot separately (technically, more cor- 
rectly, the whole of the long-shot is taken uninter- 
ruptedly, from the hand-movement to the threat to 
the adversary ; the close-up is taken separately). 
It is naturally obvious that the close-up of the hand 
of the actor, cut into the long-shot of the hand- 
movement, will only be in the right place and only 
blend to a unity if the movements of the actor's 
hand at both moments of actual recording are in 
exact external correspondence. 36 

The example given of the hand is extremely 
elementary. The hand-movement is not compli- 
cated and exact repetition not hard to achieve. But 
the use of several set-ups in representing an actor's 
work occurs very frequently in films. The move- 
ments of the actors may be very complicated. And 
in order to repeat in the close-up the movements 
made in long-shot, to conform to the requirements 
of great spacial and temporal exactness, both director 
and actor must be technically highly practised. Yet 
another property of films conditions exactness of 
spacial directorial construction. In the preparation 
of the material to be shot, in the construction of the 
work before the camera, in the choice and fixation 
of one or other movement form — or, in other words, 
in the organisation of these tasks — not only are 
bounds set to the director by the considerations of 
his editing plan, but he is limited also by the specific 
view-field of the camera itself, which forces all the 


material shot into the well-known rectangular con- 
tour of the cinematograph screen. During his work 
the film director does not see what takes place in 
front of him with the eye of a normal spectator — he 
looks at it with the eye of the lens. 37 The normal 
human gaze, widely embracing the area in front of 
him, does not exist for the director. He sees and 
constructs only in that conditioned section of space 
that the camera can take in ; and yet more — this 
space is, as it were, delimited by fast, fixed boun- 
daries, and the very definite expression of these 
boundaries themselves inevitably conditions an 
inflexibility of composition in the spacial construc- 
tion. It is obvious that an actor taken with a fairly 
close approximation of the camera will, in making 
a movement too wide in relation to the space he 
occupies, simply disappear from the view-field of the 
camera. If, for example, the actor sit with bended 
head, and must raise his head, at a given approxi- 
mation of the camera, an error on his part of only 
an inch or two may leave only his chin visible to the 
spectator, the rest of him being outside the limits of 
the screen, or, technically, " cut off." This elemen- 
tary example broadly emphasises once again the 
necessity of an exact spacial calculation of every 
movement the director shoots. Naturally this neces- 
sity applies not only to close-ups. It may be a gross 
mistake to take instead of the whole of somebody, 
only two-thirds of him. To distribute the material 
shot and its movements in the rectangle of the picture 
in such a way that everything is clearly and sharply 


apprehensible, to construct every composition in such 
a way that the right-angled boundaries of the screen 
do not disturb the composition found, but perfectly 
contain it — that is the achievement towards which 
film directors strive. 


Anyone who knows anything of painting knows 
how the shape of the canvas on which the picture 
is painted conditions the composition of the design. 
The forms presented upon the canvas must be 
organically enclosed in the boundaries of its space. 
The same is true of the work of the film director. 
No movement, no construction is thinkable for him 
outside that piece of space, limited by a rectangular 
contour and technically termed the " picture." 38 It 
is true that not always does a film director happen to 
deal with subordination as direct as that of actors 
receiving orders easily obeyed. He often encounters 
happenings and processes that cannot be directly 
subordinated to his will. For the director strives 
ever to seize and use everything that the world around 
can offer him. And far from everything in this world 
obeys the shouting of a director. For instance, the 
shooting of a sea, a waterfall, a storm, an avalanche : 
all this is often brought into a film, and, forming a 
firmly integral part of the subject, must consequently 
be organised exactly as any other material prepared 
for editing. Here the director is completely sub- 
merged in a mass of chance happenings. Nothing 
is directly obedient to his will. The movements 


before the camera develop in accordance with their 
own laws. But the material required by the director 
— that is, out of which the film can be made — must 
none the less be organised. If the director finds 
himself confronted with a phenomenon that is chance 
in this sense, he cannot and must not give in to it, 
for otherwise his work will change itself to a simple, 
unregulated record. He must employ the adven- 
titious phenomenon, and he does so by constantly 
inventing a series of special methods. Here comes 
to his help that possibility of disregarding the natural 
development of the action in real time, of which I 
have already spoken above. The director, alertly 
watching with his camera, finds it possible to pick 
out the material required and to unite the separate 
shots on the screen, even though they may in reality 
be separated from one another by wide temporal 
intervals. Suppose he require for a film a small 
stream, the bursting of a dam, and the flood conse- 
quent on the catastrophe, he can shoot the stream 
and the dam in autumn, the river when in spate in 
spring, and secure the required impression by 
combination of the two sections. Suppose the action 
take place on the shores of a sea with a continuous 
and tempestuous breaking of the surf, the director 
can only take his shots when the waves are high 
after a storm. But the shots, though spread out over 
several months, will represent on the screen perhaps 
only a day or an hour. Thus the director utilises 
the (natural) repetition of a chance happening for 
the required filmic representation. 


The recording of the animals that so often appear 
in films affords a further instance of the use of special 
methods in organising the adventitious. It is said 
that an American director spent sixty working hours 
and the corresponding amount of celluloid in order 
to get on the screen the exact spring that he needed 
of a kitten on a mouse. In another film a sea-lion 
had to be recorded. 39 The timorous animal swam 
rapidly and irregularly around its pond. Of course, 
the simple method would have been to take in the 
whole pond, setting up the camera the required 
distance away, and enabling the spectator to follow 
the movements of the sea-lion just as a given observer 
standing on the bank would have followed them. 
The camera could not, and had not, to watch thus ; 
it had before it a number of separate problems. The 
camera had to observe how the beast glided swiftly 
and dexterously over the surface of the water, and 
it had to observe it from the best viewpoint. The 
sea-lion had also to be seen from closer, making 
close-ups necessary. The editing-plan, that preceded 
the taking of the shots, was as follows : 

1. The sea-lion swims in the pond towards the 
bank — taken slightly from above, the better to 
follow the movements of the beast in the water. 

2. The sea-lion springs out on to the bank, and 
then plunges back into the water. 

3. It swims back to its den. 

Three times had the viewpoint of the camera to be 
altered. Once the photographing had to be from 


above, then the camera had to be placed so that the 
beast, springing on to the bank, would happen to 
be very near it, and the third time the sea-lion had 
to be taken swimming away from the camera, so as 
to show the speed of its movement. At the same 
time, the whole material had to be shown in 
connected form, so that, on the screen, in the 
apprehension of the spectator, the three separate 
shots of sea-lion should blend to the impression of 
one continuous movement of the animal, despite the 
fact that they were taken from different points. 
One cannot command a beast to swim in a desired 
direction or to approach a camera ; but at the same 
time its movement was exactly prescribed in the 
editing-plan, with which the construction of the 
whole picture was bound up. When the sea-lion 
was being taken from above, it swam — tempted by 
the throwing of a fish — several times across the pond 
until it came by chance into the view-field of the 
camera in the way the director required. For the 
close-up, the bait was thrown again and again until 
the sea-lion leaped on to the right place on the bank 
and made the necessary turn. Out of thirty takes 
made, three were chosen, and these gave on the 
screen the desired image of continuous movement. 
This movement was not organised by direct pres- 
cription of the work required, but attained by 
approximate control of adventitious elements and 
subsequent strict selection of the material gathered. 
The chance is synonymous of real, unfalsified, unacted 
life. In fifty per cent of his work the director 


encounters it. Organisation and exact arrangement — 
this is the basic slogan of film work, and it is chiefly 
accomplished by the editing. The editing-plan can 
exist before the moment of shooting, and then the 
will of the director transforms and subdues reality 
in order to assemble the work out of it. The editing- 
plan can appear during the process of shooting, if 
the director, come upon unforeseen material, use it 
simultaneously orientating his work according to 
that feasible future form that will compose, from the 
pieces shot, a united filmic image. 

So, for example, in The Battleship " Potemkin " the 
brilliant shots taken in the mist by the cameraman 
Tisse are cut beautifully into the film with striking 
effect and organically weld themselves to its whole, 
though nobody had foreseen the mist. Indeed, it 
was the more impossible to foresee the mist because 
mists had hitherto been regarded as a hindrance in 

But, in either case, the shooting must be related 
organically to the editing-plan, and consequently 
the paramount requirement of an exact spacial and 
temporal calculation of the content of each piece 
remains in force. 


When, instead of making a simple fixation of some 
action that takes place in reality, we wish to render 
it in its filmic form — that is to say, exchange its 
actual, uninterrupted flow for an integration of 
creatively selected elements — then we must bear 


invariably in mind those laws that relate the spec- 
tator to the director who edits the shots. When 
we discussed a haphazard, chaotic ordination of 
shots, we laid it down that this would appear as a 
meaningless disorder to the spectator. To impress 
the spectator is correctly to discover the order and 
rhythm of the combination. 

How does one hit upon such an ordination ? 
Certainly, generally speaking, this, like any other 
creative artistic process, must be left ultimately to 
the artist's intuition. None the less, at least the paths 
that approximately determine the direction of this 
work should be indicated. We have already made 
comparison above between the lens and the eye of 
an observer. This comparison can be carried very 
far. The director, as he determines the position of 
the camera in shooting and prescribes the length of 
each separate shot, can, in fact, be compared to an 
observer who turns his glance from one element of 
the action to another, so long as this observer is not 
apathetic in respect to his emotional state. The more 
deeply he is excited by the scene before him, the 
more rapidly and suddenly (staccato) his attention 
springs from one point to another. (The example of 
the motor-car accident.) The more disinterestedly 
and phlegmatically he observes the action, the 
calmer and slower will be the changes of his points 
of attention, and consequently the changes of set-up 
of the camera. The emotion can unquestionably be 
communicated by the specific rhythm of the editing. 
Griffith, the American, richly uses this method in 


the greater part of his films. Here belongs also that 
characteristic directorial method of forcing the spec- 
tator to insinuate himself into the skin of the actor, 
and letting him see with the latter's eyes. Very 
often after the face of the hero looking at something, 
the object looked at is shown from his viewpoint. 
The greater part of the methods of editing a film 
yet known to us can be linked to this regarding 
of the camera as observer. The considerations 
that determine changes of glance coincide almost 
exactly with those that govern correct editing 

But it cannot be claimed that this comparison is 
exhaustive. The construction of filmic form in 
editing can be carried out in several ways. For, 
finally, it is the editing itself that contains the culmi- 
nation of the creative work of the film director. 
Indeed, it is in the direct discovery of methods for 
use in the editing of the material filmed that the film 
will gain for itself a worthy place among the other 
great arts. Film-art is yet inks period of birth. Such 
methods as approximation, comparison, pattern, and 
so forth, that have already been long an organic 
preparatory part of the existing arts, are only now 
being tested fumblingly in the film. I cannot here 
refrain from the opportunity of instancing a brilliant 
example of an unquestionably new editing method 
that Eisenstein used in The Battleship " Potemkin" 

The fourth reel ends with the firing of a gun, on 
board the rebel battleship, at the Odessa Theatre. 
This seemingly simple incident is handled in an 


extraordinarily interesting way by Eisenstein. The 
editing is as follows : 

i. Title: 
" And the rebel battleship answered the brutality of the 
tyrant with a shell upon the town.' 9 

2. A slowly and deliberately turning gun-turret 
is shown. 

3. Title : 

" Objective — the Odessa Theatre 99 

4. Marble group at the top of the theatre 

5. Title : 

" On the General 9 s Headquarters 99 

6. Shot from the gun. 

7. In two very short shots the marble figure of 
Cupid is shown above the gates of a building. 

8. A mighty explosion ; the gates totter. 

9. Three short shots, a stone lion sleeping, a 
stone lion with open eyes, and a rampant stone 

10. A new explosion, shattering the gates. 

This is an editing construction that is reproduced 
in words only with difficulty, but that is almost 
shatteringly effective on the screen. The director has 
here employed a daring form of editing. In his film 
a stone lion rises to its feet and roars. This image 
has hitherto been thinkable only in literature, and 
its appearance on the screen is an undoubted and 


thoroughly promising innovation. It is interesting 
to observe that in this short length of film all the 
characteristic elements peculiar and specific to filmic 
representation are united. The battleship was taken 
in Odessa, the various stone lions in the Crimea, 40 
and the gates, I believe, in Moscow. The elements 
are picked out and welded into one united filmic 
space. From different, immovable stone lions has 
arisen in the film the non-existent movement of a 
filmic lion springing to its feet. Simultaneously with 
this movement has appeared a time non-existent in 
reality, inseparably bound up with each movement. 
The rebel battleship is concentrated to a single gun- 
muzzle, and the General's headquarters stare at the 
spectator in the shape of a single marble group on 
the summit of their roof. The struggle between the 
enemies not only loses nothing thereby, but gains in 
clearness and sharpness. Naturally this example of 
the lions instanced here cannot be brought into 
relation with the use of the camera as observer. It 
is an exceptional example, offering undoubted possi- 
bilities in the future for the creative work of the film 
director. Here the film passes from naturalism, which 
in a certain degree was proper to it, to free, symbolic 
representation, independent of the requirements of 
elementary probability. 


We have already laid down, as the characteristic 
property of filmic representation, the striving of the 
camera to penetrate as deeply as possible into the 


details of the event being represented, to approach 
as nearly as possible to the object under observation, 
and to pick out only that which can be seen with 
a glance, intensified to eliminate the general and 
superficial. Equally characteristic is its externally 
exhaustive embrace of the events it handles. One 
might say that the film, as it were, strives to force the 
spectator to transcend the limits of normal human 
apprehension. On the one hand, it allows this appre- 
hension to be sharpened by incredible attentiveness 
of observation, in concentrating entirely on • the 
smallest details. At the same time, it allows events 
in Moscow and nearly related events in America to 
be embraced in a nearly simultaneous comprehension. 
Concentration on details and wide embrace of the 
whole include an extraordinary mass of material. 
Thus the director is faced with the task of organising 
and carefully working out a great number of separate 
tasks, according to a definite plan previously devised 
by him. As instance : in every, even in an average, 
film the number of persons in the action is seldom 
less than several dozen, and each of these persons 
— even those shown only shortly — is organically 
related to the film as a whole : the performance of 
each of these persons must be carefully ordered and 
thought out, exactly as carefully as any shot from 
the part of a principal. A film is only really signifi- 
cant when every one of its elements is firmly welded 
to a whole. And this will only be the case when 
every element of the task is carefully mastered. When 
one calculates that in a film of about 4,000 feet there 


are about five hundred pieces, then one perceives 
that there are five hundred separate but interlocked 
groups of problems to be solved, carefully and atten- 
tively, by the director. When one considers yet 
again that work on a film is always and inevitably 
limited by a given maximal time duration, then one 
sees that the director is so overloaded with work that 
successful carrying through of the film with direction 
from one man alone is almost impossible. It is 
therefore quite easily comprehensible that all notable 
directors seek to have their work carried out in a 
departmentalised manner. The whole work of 
producing a film disintegrates into a series of separate 
and, at the same time, firmly interrelated sections. 
Even if one only enumerates the basic stages super- 
ficially, one gets, none the less, a very impressive 
list. As follows : 

1. The scenario, and its contained treatment. 

2. The preparation of the shooting-script, 
determination of the editing construction. 

3. The selection of actors. 

4. The building of sets and the selection of 

5. The direction and taking of the separate 
elements into which incidents are divided for 
editing, the shooting-script script-scenes. 

6. Laboratory work on the material shot. 

7. The editing (the cutting). 

The director, as the single organising control that 
guides the assembling of the film from beginning to 


end, must naturally make his influence felt in each 
of these separate sections. If a hiatus, a mishap, 
creep into the work of but one of the stages listed, 
the whole film — the result of the director's collective 
creation — will inevitably suffer, equally whether it 
be a matter of a badly chosen actor, of an uneven 
piece of continuity in the treatment, or of a badly 
developed piece of negative. Thus it is obvious that 
the director must be the central organiser of a group 
of colleagues whose efforts are directed upon the goal 
mapped out by him. 

Collective work on a film is not just a concession 
to current practice, but a necessity that follows from 
the characteristic basic peculiarities of films. The 
American director is surrounded during his direc- 
torial work by a whole staff of colleagues, each of 
whom fulfils a sharply defined and delimited func- 
tion. A series of assistants, each provided by the 
director with a task in which the latter's idea is clearly 
defined, works simultaneously on the many incidents 
and parts of incidents. After having been checked 
and confirmed by the director, these incidents are 
shot and added to the mass of material being pre- 
pared for the assembling of the film. The resolution 
of certain problems — such, for instance, as the 
organised shooting of crowd-scenes including some- 
times as many as a thousand persons — shows quite 
clearly that the director's work cannot attain a 
proper result unless he has a sufficiently extensive 
staff of colleagues at his disposal. In fine, a director 
working with a thousand extras exactly resembles a 


commander-in-chief. He gives battle to the indif- 
ference of the spectator ; it is his task to conquer 
it by means of an expressive construction of the 
movement of the masses he guides ; and, like a 
commander-in-chief, he must have a sufficient 
number of officers at his disposal to be able to sway 
the crowd according to his will. We have said 
already that, in order to attain a unified creation, 
a complete film, the director must lead constant 
through all the numerous stages of the work a 
unifying, organising line created by him. We shall 
now examine these stages one by one, in order to 
be able to represent to ourselves yet more clearly the 
nature of the work of film direction. 

Part II 


In production, affairs usually take the following 
course : a scenario is received, handed over to 
the director, and he submits it to a so-called 
directorial treatment — that is to say, he works over 
the entire material submitted him by the scenarist 
according to his own individuality ; he expresses 
the thoughts offered him in his own filmic speech 
— in the language of separate images, separate 
elements, shots, that follow one another in a certain 
sequence he establishes. 


In short, if a film be compared with the scenario 
lying basic to it, it is possible to distinguish the 
theme, the subject treatment of the theme, and, 
finally, that imaginary filmic formation of the treat- 
ment that is worked out by the director in the 
process of production. Needless to say, these three 
stages of work must be directly and organically 
interdependent. None the less, it is evident that the 
work of the scenarist extends only up to a certain 
point, after which the share of the director begins. 
There is no art-form in which a sharp division 
between two stages of work is thinkable. One cannot 
continue a work from some point in its course, and 
not have been linked with it from its beginning. 
Therefore, as a result of the necessity for unification 
of two stages, the preliminary work of the scenarist 
and the subsequent directorial work, the following 
is inevitable : either the director must be directly 
associated with the work of the scenarist from the 
beginning, or, if this be impossible for some reason 
or other, he must inevitably go through the scenario, 
removing anything foreign to him, maybe altering 
separate parts and sequences, maybe the entire 
subject-construction. The director is ever faced with 
the task of creating the film from a series of plastically 
expressive images. In the ability to find such plastic 
images, in the faculty of creating from separate shots, 
by editing, clear, expressive " phrases," and con- 
necting these phrases into vividly impressive periods, 
and from these periods constructing a film — in this 
consists the art of the director. Not always can the 


scenarist, especially when he has not a clearly filmi- 
cally thinking brain and is thus in some degree 
himself a director, provide in ready form the plastic 
material required by the director. Usually it is 
otherwise, the scenarist gives the director the idea, 
as such— the detached content of the image, and not 
its concrete form. But in a collaboration of this kind 
the welding together of the two colleagues, the 
scenarist and the director, is certainly of tremendous 
importance. It is easy to put forward ideas that will 
wake no echo in the director and must remain a 
pure abstraction without concrete form. Even the 
theme itself of the scenario — in other words, its basis 
— must inevitably be selected and established in 
contact with the director. The theme conditions the 
action, colours it, and thus, of course, inevitably 
colours that plastic content the expression of which 
is the chief substance of the director's task. Only 
if the theme be organically comprehended by the 
director will he be able to subdue it to the unifying 
outline of the form he is creating. 

Pursuing further, we come to the action. The 
action outlines a number of situations for the 
characters, their relations to one another, and, not 
least, their encounters. It prescribes in its develop- 
ment a whole number of events that already have, 
in some sort, feelable form. The action cannot be 
thought of without already some plastically expres- 
sive form. In most cases it is difficult for a scenarist, 
having graduated from the literary field, to steer 
his course by the conditions of externally expressive 


form. Already in planning the action the basic 
incidents that are to determine its shape must 
infallibly be mapped out. Here comes yet more 
clearly to light the inevitable dependence on the 
later directorial work. Even such a thing as the 
characteristics of a person of the action will be 
meaningless if not shown in a series of plastically 
effective movements or situations. 


To continue. All the action of any scenario is 
immersed in some environment that provides, as it 
were, the general colour of the film. This environ- 
ment may, for example, be a special mode of life. 
By more detailed examination, one may even regard 
as the environment some separate peculiarity, some 
special essential trait of the given mode of life 
selected. This environment, this colour, cannot, and 
must not, be rendered by one explanatory scene or 
a title ; it must constantly pervade the whole film, 
or its appropriate part, from beginning to end. As 
I have said, the action must be immersed in this 
background. A whole series of the best films of 
recent times has shown that this emphasis by means 
of an environment in which the action is immersed 
is quite easily effected in cinematography. The 
film Tot' able David shows us this vividly. It is also 
interesting that the effecting of the unity of this 
colour of a film is based upon the scarcely communi- 
cable ability to saturate the film with numerous fine 
and correctly observed details. Naturally it is not 


possible to require of the scenarist that he shall 
discover all these details and fix them in writing. 
The best that he can do is to find their necessary 
abstract formulation, and it is the affair of the 
director to absorb this formulation and give it the 
necessary plastic shape. Remarks by the scenarist 
such as, perhaps, " There was an insufferable smell 
in the room " or " Many factory-sirens vibrated and 
sang through the heavy, oil-permeated atmosphere " 
are not in any sense forbidden. They indicate cor- 
rectly the relation between the ideas of the scenarist 
and the future plastic shaping by the director. It 
may already now be said with a fair degree of 
certainty that the most immediate task next awaiting 
the director is that very solution by filmic methods 
of the descriptive problems mentioned. The first 
experiments were carried out by the Americans in 
showing a landscape of symbolic character at the 
beginning of a film. ToVable David began with the 
picture of a village taken through a cherry-tree in 
flower. The foaming, tempestuous sea symbolised 
the leit-motif of the film The Remnants of a Wreck. 

A wonderful example, affording unquestionably 
an achievement of this kind, are the pictures of the 
misty dawn rising over the corpse of the murdered 
sailor in The Battleship " Potemkin" The solution of 
these problems — the depiction of the environment — 
is an undoubted and important part of the work on 
the scenario. And this work naturally cannot be 
carried out without direct participation by the 
director. Even a simple landscape — a piece of nature 


so often encountered in films — must, by some inner 
guiding line, be bound up with the developing 

I repeat that the film is exceptionally economical 
and precise in its work. There is, and must be, in 
it no superfluous element. There is no such thing 
as a neutral background, and every factor must be 
collected and directed upon the single aim of solving 
the given problems. For every action, in so far as 
it takes place in the real world, is always involved 
in general conditions — that is, the nature of the 

The action of the scenes may take place by day or 
by night. Film directors have long been familiar 
with this point, and the effort to render night effects 
is to this day an interesting problem for film directors. 
One can go further. The American, Griffith, suc- 
ceeded in the film America in obtaining, with 
marvellous tenderness and justness, graduations of 
twilight and morning. The director has a mass of 
material at his disposal for this kind of work. The 
film is interesting, as said before, not only in that 
it is able to concentrate on details, but also in its 
ability to weld to a unity numerous materials, 
deriving from widely embraced sources. 

As example, this same morning light : To gain 
this effect, the director can use not only the growing 
light of sunrise, but also numerous correctly selected, 
characteristic processes that infallibly relate them- 
selves with approaching dawn in the apprehension 
of the spectator. The light of lamp-posts growing 


paler against the lightening sky, the silhouettes of 
scarcely visible buildings, the tops of trees tenderly 
touched with the light of the not yet ascended sun, 
awakening birds, crowing cocks, the early morning 
mist, the dew — all this can be employed by the 
director, shot, and in editing built to a harmonious 

In one film an interesting method was used of 
representing the filmic image of a dawn. In order 
to embrace in the editing construction the feeling of 
growing and ever wider expanding light, the separate 
shots follow one another in such wise that at the 
beginning, when it is still dark, only details can be 
seen upon the screen. The camera took only close- 
ups, as if, like the eye of man in the surrounding 
dark, it saw only what was near to it. With the 
increase of the light the camera became ever more 
and more distant from the object shot. Simul- 
taneously with the broadening of the light, broader 
and broader became the view-field embraced by the 
lens. From the close-ups in darkness the director 
changed to ever more distant long-shots, as if he 
sought directly to render the increasing light, per- 
vading everything widely and more widely. It is 
notable that here is employed a pure technical pos- 
sibility, peculiar only to the film, of communicating 
a very subtle feeling. 

It is clear that work on the solution of problems of 
this kind is bound up so closely with the knowledge 
of film technique, so organically with the pure 
directorial work of analysis, selection of the material, 


and its unification in creative editing, that such 
problems cannot, independently of the director, be 
resolved for him by the scenarist alone. At the same 
time, it is, as already mentioned, absolutely essential 
to give the expression of this environment in which 
the action of every film is immersed, and accordingly, 
in the creation of the scenario, it is indispensable for 
the director to collaborate in the work. 


I should like to note that in the work of one of 
the strongest directors of the present day, David 
Griffith, in almost every one of his films, and indeed 
especially in* those in which he has reached the 
maximum expression and power, it is almost 
invariably the case that the action of the scenario 
develops among characters blended directly with 
that which takes place in the surrounding world. 

The stormy finale of the Griffith film is so con- 
structed as to strengthen for the spectator the conflict 
and the struggle of the heroes to an unimagined 
degree, thanks to the fact that the director introduces 
into the action, gale, storm, breaking ice, rivers in 
spate, a gigantic roaring waterfall. When Lilian 
Gish, in Way Down East, runs broken from the house, 
her happiness in ruins, and the faithful Barthelmess 
rushes after her to bring her back to life, the whole 
pursuit of love behind despair, developing in the 
furious tempo of the action, takes place in a fearful 
snowstorm ; and at the final climax, Griffith forces 
the spectator himself to feel despair, when a rotating 


block of ice, on it cowering the figure of a woman, 
approaches the precipice of a gigantic waterfall, 
itself conveying the impression of inescapable and 
hopeless ruin. 

First the snowstorm, then the foaming, swirling 
river in thaw, packed with ice-blocks that rage yet 
wilder than the storm, and finally the mighty water- 
fall, conveying the impression of death itself. In this 
sequence of events is repeated, on large scale as it 
were, the same line of that increasing despair — 
despair striving to make an end, for death, that has 
irresistibly gripped the chief character. This har- 
mony — the storm in the human heart and the storm 
in the frenzy of nature — is one of the most powerful 
achievements of the American genius. 41 This example 
shows particularly clearly how far-reaching and deep 
must be that connection, between the content of the 
scenario and the director's general treatment, that 
adds strength and unity to his work. The director 
not only transfers the separate scenes suggested by 
the scenarist each into movement and form, he has 
also to absorb the scenario in its entirety, from the 
theme to the final form of the action, and perceive 
and feel each scene as an irremovable, component 
part of the unified structure. And this can only be 
the case if he be organically involved in the work 
on the scenario from beginning to end. 

When the work on the general construction has 
been finished, the theme moulded to a subject, the 
separate scenes in which the action is realised laid 
down, then only do we come to the period of the 


hardest work on the treatment of the scenario, that 
stage of work when, already concrete and percep- 
tible, that filmic form of the picture that will result 
can be foreseen ; do we come to the period of the 
planning out of the editing scheme for the shots, of 
the discovery of those component parts from which 
the separate images will later be assembled. 

To bring a waterfall into the action does not 
necessarily mean to create it on the screen. Let us 
remember what we said regarding the creation of a 
filmic image that becomes vivid and effective only 
when the necessary details are correctly found. We 
come to the stage of utilising the pieces of real space 
and real time for the future creation of filmic space 
and filmic time. If it may be said at the beginning 
of the process that the scenarist guides the work — 
and that the director has only to pay attention so 
as properly to apprehend it organically, and so as, 
not only to keep contact with it at every given 
moment, but to be constantly welded to it — now 
comes a change. The guide of the work is now the 
director, equipped with that knowledge of technique 
and that specific talent that enables him to find the 
correct and vivid images expressing the quintessential 
element of each given idea. The director organises 
each separate incident, analysing it, disintegrating 
it into elements, and simultaneously thinking of the 
connection of these elements in editing. It is here 
of special interest to note that the scenarist at this 
later stage, just as the director in the early stages, 
must not be divorced from the work. His task it is 


to supervise the resolution to editable shape of every 
separate problem, thinking at every instant of the 
basic theme — sometimes completely abstract, yet 
current in every separate problem. 

Only by means of a close collaboration can a 
correct and valuable result be attained. Naturally 
one might postulate as the ideal arrangement the 
incarnation of scenarist and director in one person. 
But I have already spoken of the unusual scope and 
complexity of film creation, that prevents any possi- 
bility of its mastery by one person. Collectivism is 
indispensable in the film, but the collaborators must 
be blended with one another to an exceptionally 
close degree. 


The editing treatment of the scenario consists not 
only in the determination of the separate incidents, 
scenes, objects that are to be shot, but also in the 
arrangement of the sequence in which they are to 
be shown. I have already said that in the deter- 
mination of this sequence one must not only have 
in mind the plastic content, but also the length of 
each separate piece of celluloid — that is to say, the 
rhythm with which the pieces are to be joined must 
be considered. This rhythm is the means of emo- 
tionally influencing the spectator. By this rhythm 
the director is equally in the position to excite or to 
calm the spectator. An error of rhythm can reduce 
the impression of the whole scene shown to zero, but 
equally can rhythm, fortunately found, raise the 


impression of a scene to an infinite degree, though it 
may contain in its separate, imagined, visual material 
nothing especial. 42 The rhythmic treatment of the 
film-scenario is not limited to the treatment of the 
separate incidents, to the finding of the necessary 
images comprising them. One must remember that 
the film is divided into separate shots, that these are 
joined together to form incidents, the incidents to 
sequences, these last to reels, and the reels together 
form the whole film. Wherever there is division, 
wherever there is an element of succession of pieces, 
be they separate pieces of celluloid or separate parts 
of the action — there everywhere the rhythmic ele- 
ment must be considered, not indeed because 
" rhythm " is a modern catchword, but because 
rhythm, guided by the will of the director, can and 
must be a powerful and secure instrument of effect. 
Remember, for instance, how exhausting, and how 
extinguishing in its effect, was the badly created, 
constantly confused rhythm of that big film, The Ray , 
of Death ; and, on the other hand, how clever was 
the distribution of material in Tollable David, in 
which the alternation of quiet and tense sections kept 
the spectator fresh and enabled him to appreciate 
the violent finale. The editable preparation of the 
scenario — in which not only the exact plastic content 
of each separate little piece is taken into considera- 
tion, but also the position in rhythmic sequence of 
its length when the pieces are joined to incidents, the 
incidents to sequences and so forth — the establish- 
ment of this position, which is already completely 


decisive for the final form that the film projected on 
the screen will take, is the last stage of the work 
of the director on the scenario. Now is the moment 
come at which new members of the collective team 
enter the work of creating the film — in fact, those 
who are concerned with real men and objects, with 
the movements and backgrounds in which they are 
locked. The director now has to prepare the material 
in order to record it on the film. 

Part III 


In accordance with their acting, films can roughly 
be divided into two kinds. In the first group are 
included such productions as are based on one 
particular actor — the " star," as he is called in 
America. The scenario is written especially for the 
actor. The entire work of the director resolves itself 
to the presentation to the spectator, once again in 
new surroundings and with a new supporting cast, 
of some well-known and favourite figure. Thus are 
produced the films of Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford, 
and Lloyd. To the second group belong those films 
that are underlain by some definite idea or thought. 
These scenarios are not written for an actor, but 
actors must be found for their realisation when 
written. Thus works David Griffith. It is not, 


therefore, remarkable that in several of his pictures 
Griffith rejects such brilliant names as Pickford, 
Mae Marsh, and others, a whole series of heroes and 
heroines whom, having used them for one or two 
films, he gives up to other hands. To that extent to 
which a film is basically inspired by some thought, 
by some definite idea — and not merely by the display 
of clever technique or a pretty face — the relationship 
between the actor and the material of the film 
receives a special and specific character, proper only 
to the film. 


In order to create a required appearance, the 
stage actor tries to find and create the necessary 
make-up, altering his face. If he has to take the 
part of a strong man in the play, he binds muscles 
of wadding on his arms. Suppose, for example, it 
were proposed to him to play Samson, he would not 
be ashamed of erecting pasteboard pillars on the set, 
to overthrow them later with one push of his shoulder. 
Such deceit in properties, equally with make-up 
drawn upon the face, is unthinkable in films. A 
made-up, property human being in a real environ- 
ment, among real trees, near real stones and real 
water, under a real sky, is as incongruous and 
inacceptable as a living horse on a stage filled with 
pasteboard. 43 The conditionality of the film is not a 
property conditionality : it changes not matter, but 
only time and space. For this reason one cannot 
build up a required type artificially for the screen ; 


one must discover him. That is why even in those 
productions the pivot of which is the inevitable and 
necessary " star," none the less the supporting actors 
for the second and third parts are always sought by 
the director from among many. The work of finding 
the necessary actors, the selection of persons with 
vividly expressive externalities conforming to the 
requirements made by the scenario is one of the 
hardest tasks of the director. It must be remembered 
that, as I have already said, one cannot " play a 
part " on the film ; one must possess a sum of real 
qualities, externally clearly expressed, in order to 
attain a given effect on the spectator. It is therefore 
easy to understand why, in film production, a man, 
passing by chance on the street, who has never had 
any idea of being an actor, is often brought in, 
only because he happens to be a vividly externally 
expressive type, and, moreover, the one desired by 
the director. In order to make concretely clear this 
inevitable necessity to use, as acting material, persons 
possessing in reality the properties of the image 
required, I shall instance at random the following 

Let us suppose that we require for a production 
an old man. In the Theatre the problem would be 
perfectly simple. A comparatively young actor 
could paint wrinkles on his face, and so make on the 
spectator, from the stage, the external impression of 
an old man. In the film this is unthinkable. Why ? 
Just because a real, living wrinkle is a deepening, a 
groove in the face. And when an old man with a 


real wrinkle turns his head, light plays on this 
wrinkle. A real wrinkle is not only a dark stripe, 
it is a shadow from the groove, and a different 
position of the face in relation to light will always 
give a different pattern of light and shade. The 
living wrinkle lives by means of movement in light. 
But if we paint a black stripe on a smooth skin, then 
on the screen the face in movement will never show 
the living groove played on by the light, but only a 
stripe painted in black paint. It will be especially 
incongruous in cases of close approximation of the 
lens — that is, in close-ups. 

In the Theatre, make-up of this kind is possible 
because the light on the stage is conditionally 
constant and throws no shadows. 

By this example it may in some wise be judged to 
what degree the actor we seek must resemble his 
prescribed appearance in the scenario. It may be 
said, in fine, that in most cases the film actor plays 
himself, and the work of the director consists not in 
compelling him to create something that is not in him, 
but in showing, as expressively and vividly as possible, 
what is in him, by using his real characteristics. 


Where the acting material is assembled in this way, 
the possibility of using a stock company, as in the 
Theatre, is naturally almost excluded. 44 In almost 
every film the director is compelled to work with 
ever new human material, often entirely untrained. 
But at the same time the work of the person being 


photographed must be strictly subjected to a whole 
series of conditions dictated by the film. I have 
already said that each piece shot must be exactly 
organised in space and time. The work of the actor 
being shot, as much as everything being shot, must 
be exactly considered. Remember that we have 
discussed the process of taking editable shots, 
whereby the same movements have to be repeated 
several times with great exactitude, in order to 
make it possible for the director to form into a single 
whole the incidents later composed by the junction 
of separate pieces. In order to work exactly one 
must know how, one must learn how, or at least be 
able to remember by heart. For the work of the 
film actor, or, if you prefer it, his acting, is deprived 
of that unbroken quality proper to the work of his 
colleague on the stage. The film image of the actor 
is composed from dozens and hundreds of separate, 
disintegrated pieces in such a way that sometimes 
he works at the beginning on something that will 
later form a part of the end. The film actor is 
deprived of a consciousness of the uninterrupted 
development of the action, in his work. The 
organic connection between the consecutive parts 
of his work, as result of which the distinct whole 
image is created, is not for him. The whole image 
of the actor is only to be conceived as a future 
appearance on the screen, subsequent to the editing 
of the director ; that which the actor performs in 
front of the lens in each given piece is only raw 
material, and it is necessary to be endowed with 


special, specific, filmic powers in order to imagine 
to oneself the whole edited image, meticulously 
composed of separate pieces picked sometimes from 
the beginning, sometimes from the middle. It is 
therefore understandable why it was first in films 
that there appeared exact directorial construction 
of the actor's work. 45 In most cases only the 
director knows the shooting-script so thoroughly 
and so well as to be able clearly to imagine it to 
himself in that shape in which it will later be 
transposed upon the screen, and therefore only he 
can imagine to himself each given part, each given 
image in its editing construction. If an actor, even 
a very talented one, allow himself to be inspired by 
a given separate scene, he will never be able, of 
himself, so to limit his work as to be able to give a 
part of his acting of exactly that length and that 
content later required by the editing. This will 
only be possible when the actor has entered as 
deeply and organically into the work of building 
the film creation as the director producing it. 
There are schools that maintain that the play of the 
actor must be ordered by the director down to its 
least details ; down to the finest movements of the 
fingers, of the eyebrows, of the eyelashes, everything 
must be exactly calculated by the director, in- 
structed by him, and recorded on the film. This 
school represents an undoubted exaggeration that 
results in unnecessary mechanicalisation ; it is, 
none the less, not to be gainsaid that the free per- 
formance of the actor must be enclosed in a 


frame-work of the severest directorial control. It is 
interesting that even such a director as Griffith — 
who is distinguished by a special " psychologicality " 
that should, strictly speaking, preclude the possi- 
bility of hard and fast construction — none the less 
does undoubtedly plastically " create " his actor. 
Griffith has a peculiar feminine type of his own, 
pathetically helpless and heroic at the same time. 
It is interesting to follow how, in various of his films, 
various women express the same emotional states by 
the same external means. Remember how Mae 
Marsh weeps in the trial in Intolerance, how the 
heroine in America sobs over her dying brother, and 
how Lilian Gish sobs in the Orphans of the Storm as 
she tells of her sister. There is the same heart- 
rending face, the same streaming tears, and the 
helpless, trembling attempt to show a smile behind 
tears. The similarity of method of many American 
actors who have worked under control of one and 
the same director shows markedly how far-reaching 
is the directorial construction of the actor's work. 


In the Theatre there exists a concept "ensemble " 
the concept implying that general composition which 
embraces the work of all the actors collaborating in 
the play. The ensemble undoubtedly exists also in 
the film, and the same may be said about it as has 
been said about the edited image of the actor. The 
fact is that the film actor is deprived of the possibility 
of himself directly appreciating this ensemble. Very 


often an actor, from beginning to end of his part 
in front of the camera, does not once see the per- 
formance of the actor opposite him in the film, and 
is shot separately. None the less, however, when 
the film is subsequently joined, the scenes of this 
actor will appear directly connected with those of 
the other, whom he has never seen. The conscious- 
ness of the ensemble, the relationship between the 
work of the separate characters, consequently 
becomes once again a task of the director. Only 
he, imagining to himself the film in its edited form, 
already projected upon the screen, already joined 
from its separately shot pieces — only he can appre- 
ciate this ensemble, and direct and construct the 
actor's work in conformity with its requirements. 
The question of the bounds of the influence the 
director should exert on the work of the actors is 
a question that is still open. Exact mechanical 
obedience to a plan provided by the director has 
undoubtedly no future. But also a wavering free 
improvisation by the actor according to general 
suggestions from the director — a method hitherto 
a characteristic of most Soviet directors — is definitely 
inadmissible. Only one thing is still undoubted, 
that the whole image of the actor will only result 
when the separately shot pictures are united one 
to the other in editing, and the work of the actor 
in each separate shot has been firmly and organi- 
cally linked to the clear understanding of the 
future whole. If such an understanding is present 
to the actor he can work freely, but, if not, then only 


the exact instructions of the director, the future creator 
of the editing, can correctly construct the acting work. 
Special difficulties are encountered by the director 
with casually collected human material, but this 
casual material is, as we have said, nearly inevitable 
in every film ; and, on the other hand, this material 
is of exceptional interest. An average film lasts an 
hour and a half. In this hour and a half there pass 
before the spectator sometimes dozens of faces that 
he may remember, surrounding the heroes of the 
film, and these faces must be especially carefully 
selected and shown. Often the entire expression 
and value of an incident, though it may centre round 
the hero, depends from these characters of second 
rank who surround him. These characters may be 
shown to the spectator for no more than six or seven 
seconds. Therefore they must impress him clearly 
and vividly. Remember the example of the gang 
of blackguards in ToVable David, or of the two old 
men in The Isle of Lost Ships. Each face impresses 
as firmly and vividly as would a separate, clever 
characterisation by a talented writer. To find a 
person such that the spectator, after seeing him for 
six seconds, shall say of him, " That man is a rogue, 
or good-natured, or a fool " — this is the task that 
presents itself to the director in the selection of his 
human material. 


When the persons are selected, when the director 
begins to shoot their work, they provide him with a 


new problem : the actor must move in front of the 
camera, and his movements must be expressive. 
The concept " an expressive movement " is not so 
simple as it appears at first sight. First of all, it is 
not identical with that everyday movement, that 
customary behaviour proper to an average man in 
his real surroundings. A man not only has gestures, 
but words also are at his disposal. Sometimes the 
word accompanies the gesture and sometimes, 
reversed, the gesture aids the word. In the Theatre 
both are feasible. That is why an actor with deeply 
ingrained theatrical training conforms with difficulty 
to the standards of the screen. In The Postmaster y 
Moskvin — an actor of undoubted exceptionally big 
filmic possibilities — none the less tires one 
unpleasantly with his ever-moving mouth and 
with petty movements beating time to the rhythm 
of the unspoken words. Gesture-movement accom- 
panying speech is unthinkable on the film. Losing 
its correspondence with the sounds that the spectator 
does not hear, it degenerates to a senseless plastic 
muttering. The director in work with an actor 
must so construct the performance of the latter that 
the significant point shall lie always in the move- 
ment, and the word accompany it only when 
required. In a pathetic scene, when he learns from 
the godmother that the hussar officer has eloped 
with Dunia, Moskvin speaks a great deal and 
obviously, while at the same time, automatically 
and quite naturally, like a man accustomed to 
spoken business, he accompanies every word with 


one and the same repeated movement of the hand. 
During the shooting, when the words were audible, 
the scene was effective, and even very effective ; 
but on the screen it resulted as a painful and often 
ridiculous shuffling about on one spot. The idea 
that the film actor should express in gesture that 
which the ordinary man says in words is basically 
false. In creating the picture the director and actor 
use only those moments when the word is superfluous, 
when the substance of the action develops in silence, 
when the word may accompany the gesture, but does 
not give birth to it. 46 


That is why the inanimate object has such 
enormous importance on the films. An object is 
already an expressive thing in itself, in so far as the 
spectator always associates with it a number of 
images. A revolver is a silent threat, a flying 
racing-car is a pledge of rescue or of help arriving 
in time. The performance of an actor linked with 
an object and built upon it will always be one of 
the most powerful methods of filmic construction. 
It is, as it were, a filmic monologue without words. 
An object, linked to an actor, can bring shades of 
his state of emotion to external expression so subtly 
and deeply as no gesture or mimicry could ever 
express them conditionally. In The Battleship 
"Potemkin " the battleship itself is an image so 
powerfully and clearly shown that the men on board 
are resolved into it, organically blended with it. 


The shooting down of the crowd is answered not 
by the sailors standing to the guns, but by the steel 
battleship itself, breathing from a hundred mouths. 
When, at the finale, the battleship rushes under 
full steam to meet the fleet, then, in some sort, the 
steadfastly labouring, steel driving-rods of the 
engine incarnate in themselves the hearts of its 
crew, furiously beating in tenseness of expectation. 


For the film director the concept of ensemble 
is extraordinarily wide. Material objects enter 
organically into it as well as characters, and it is 
necessary once more to recall that, in the final 
editing of the picture, the performance of the actor 
will stand next to, will have to be welded to, a whole 
series of other pieces, which he cannot see, and of 
which he can know only indirectly. Only the direc- 
tor knows and gauges them completely. Therefore 
the actor is considered by the director, before any- 
thing else, as material requiring his " treatment." 
Let us, in fine, also remember that even each actor 
separately who is, in real conditions, apprehended as 
something whole, as the figure of a human being 
whose movements are perceived as the simultaneous 
connected work of all the members of his body — such 
a man often does not exist on the screen. In editing, 
the director builds sometimes not only scenes, but 
also a separate human being. Let us remember how 
often in films we see and remember a character 


despite the fact that we saw only his head and, 
separately, his hand. 

In his experimental films Lev Kuleshov tried to 
record a woman in movement by photographing 
the hands, feet, eyes, and head of different women. 
As consequence of editing resulted the impression 
of the movements of one single person. Naturally 
this example does not suggest a special means of 
practical creation of a man not available in reality, 
but it emphasises especially vividly the statement 
that, even in the limits of his short individual work 
unconnected with other actors, the image of the 
actor derives not from a separate stage of work, the 
shooting of a separate piece, but only from that 
editing construction that welds such pieces to a 
filmic whole. Take this as one more confirmation 
of the absolute necessity for exactness in working, 
and one more confirmation of the axiomatic 
supremacy of its imagined edited image over each 
separate element of the actual work in front of the 
lens. Also, quite obviously of course, the axiomatic 
supremacy of the director, bearer of the image of 
the general construction of the film, over the actor 
who provides material for this construction. 


Part IV 


I have already spoken above of the necessity 
constantly to bear in mind the rectangular 
space of the screen that always encloses every 
movement shot. The movement of the actor in 
real three-dimensional space once again serves the 
director only as material for the selection of the 
elements required for construction of the future 
appearance, flat and inserted exactly into the space 
of the frame. The director never sees the actor as 
a real human being ; he imagines and sees the 
future filmic appearance, and carefully selects the 
material for it by making the actor move in various 
ways and altering the position of the camera relative 
to him. The same disintegration as with every- 
thing in film. Not for one moment is the director 
presented with live men. Before him he has always 
only a series of component parts of the future filmic 
construction. This does not necessitate a sort of 
killing and mechanicalisation of the actor. He can 
be as spontaneous as he likes, and need not in any 
way disturb the natural continuity of his movements, 
but the director, controlling the camera, will, owing 
to the nature of cinematographic representation, 
himself pick out from the entire work of the living 
man the pieces he requires. When Griffith shot 


the hands of Mae Marsh in the trial scene, the 
actress was probably crying when she pinched the 
skin of her hands ; she lived a full and real 
experience and was completely in the grip of the 
necessary emotion as a whole, but the director, for 
the film, picked out only her hands. 


There is one more element characteristic for the 
work of the director with the actor — that is light, 
that light without which neither object nor human 
being nor anything else has existence on the film. 
The director, determining the lighting in the studio, 
literally creates the future form upon the screen. 
For light is the only element that has effect on the 
sensitive strips of celluloid, only of light of varying 
strengths is woven the image we behold upon the 
screen. And this light serves not only to develop 
the forms — to make them visible. An actor unlit 
is — nothing. An actor lit only so as to be visible is 
a simple, undifferentiated, indefinite object. This 
same light can be altered and constructed in such a 
way as to make it enter as an organic component 
into the actor's work. The composition of the light 
can eliminate much, emphasise much, and bring out 
with such strength the expressive work of the actor, 
that it becomes apparent that light is not simply a 
condition for the fixation of expressive work by the 
actor, but in itself represents a part of this expressive 
work. Remember the face of the priest in The 
Battleship "Potemkin " lit from underneath. 47 


Thus the work of the film actor in creation of his 
filmic image is bounded by a technically complex 
frame of conditions specifically proper to the film. 
The exact awareness of these conditions lies only 
with the director, and the actor can only enter 
creatively, sufficiently widely and deeply, into the 
work of creating the film when he is a sufficiently 
tightly and organically welded member of the team 
— that is, if his work be sufficiently deeply embraced 
in the sphere of the preparatory work of the director 
and scenarist. Thus we have arrived, at the end of 
this chapter, once more at a conclusion of the 
necessity for an organic team. 

Part V 


When the actors have been chosen, and the 
scenes exactly and editably prepared — then begins 
the shooting. Into the work enters a new 
member of the team — a man armed with a 
camera, who does the actual shooting — the camera- 
man. And now the director has a new problem to 
overcome : between the collected and prepared 
material and the future finished work stands the 
camera, and the man working it. Everything that 
has been said about the composition of movement 
in the space of the picture, about light bringing out 


the picture, about expressive light, must in actuality 
be brought into conformity with the technical 
possibilities of shooting. The camera, which appears 
for the first time in shooting, introduces a real 
conditionality into film-work. First and foremost : 
the angle of its vision. Normal human vision can 
embrace a little less than 180 degrees of surrounding 
space — that is to say, man can perceive almost the 
half of his horizon. The field of the lens is con- 
siderably less. Its view-angle is equal roughly to 
45 degrees and, here already the director begins to 
leave behind the normal apprehension of real 
space. Already, owing to this peculiarity, the 
guided lens of the camera does not embrace the 
entirety of optical space, but picks out from it only 
a part, an element, the so-called picture. With 
the help of a number of camera accessories a yet 
greater narrowing of this view-field can be attained ; 
the frame itself surrounding the image can be 
altered, by means of a so-called " mask." 

Not only does the small view-angle set bounds to 
the space in which the action develops both in 
height and in width, but by a technical property of 
the lens the depth of the space picked out is also 
limited. An actor shot from very close has not only 
to fit his movements into the narrow frame of the 
picture in order not to overstep its bounds, he must 
remember also that he must not recede in depth or 
approach, for he would then go out of focus and his 
image would be unclear. At the same time, the 
camera, over and above those limitations that 


condition the movements of the material shot, has 
also a number of accessories which, far from limiting, 
on the contrary broaden, the work of the director. 
Remember, for example, in the pictures of Griffith, 
those lyrically tender moments that appear as if 
taken through a slight haze. Here we have a 
method that unquestionably strengthens the impres- 
sions of the scene shot, and it is carried out solely 
by the cameraman taking his shot through a light, 
transparent gauze or with a specially constructed 
lens. 48 

Remember the extraordinarily impressive shot 
in The Battleship "Potemkin" when the stone steps 
appear suddenly to rush up to meet the falling 
wounded. This effect could not have been attained 
without a special apparatus that enabled the camera 
to be tilted quickly from up downwards during the 

In the hands of the cameraman are those actual 
technical possibilities with the help of which he 
can transform the abstract ideas of the director to 
concrete. And these possibilities are innumerable. 


When the camera stands ready in position, the 
director does not now only orientate himself on the 
future screen image, as he did when working on the 
scenario or selecting and preparing the actor. He 
does not now only imagine or visualize it. Look- 
ing through the view-finder (a special appliance 
attached to the camera), the director sees on smaller 


scale the future picture that will later be projected 
on the screen. The scenario has been written, its 
special tasks exactly formulated. The prescription 
of the shooting of each scene, determining its plastic 
and rhythmic content, is ready, the cast is selected 
and ready for work, all preparation completed, 
and now the material thus prepared has to be fixed 
upon the celluloid. The camera when prepared for 
shooting embodies the viewpoint from which the 
future spectator will apprehend the appearance on 
the screen. This viewpoint may be various. Each 
object can be seen, and therefore shot, from a 
thousand different points, and the selection of any 
given point cannot, and must not, be by chance. 
This selection is always related to the entire content 
of the task that the director keeps in mind in aiming, 
in one way or another, to affect the spectator. 

Let us begin, for argument's sake, with the simple 
showing of a shape. Suppose we wish to shoot a 
cigarette lying on the edge of a table. One can so 
set up the camera that the opening of the cardboard 
cartouche of the cigarette exactly faces the lens ; 
and as a result of the shot no cigarette will appear 
upon the screen — the spectator will see only the 
stripe of the edge of the table, and on it a small 
round black circle, the opening of the cartouche 
circled by its round white frame of cardboard. It 
follows that in order to enable the spectator to see 
the cigarette, it is necessary for the lens of the camera 
also to be able to " see " it. It is necessary, in 
shooting, to find such a position for the lens in 


relation to the object as will enable the whole shape 
of the latter to be seen with maximum clarity and 

If a torn cigarette is to be shot, the cameraman 
must so position the camera that the lens, and with it 
the eye of the future spectator, shall clearly see the 
tear of the paper, and the tobacco sticking through it. 

The example with the cigarette is very elementary 
— it but roughly proves the substantial importance 
of the selection of a definite set-up of the camera 
in relation to the object shot. The problems solved 
by this selection, in actual practice, are many sided 
and provide one of the most important aspects of 
the joint work of director and cameraman. 

Let us turn to the more complex. The task of the 
director may involve not only a simple representa- 
tion of the shape of the given object, but of its 
relative position in this or that part of space. Let 
us suppose we have not only to shoot a wall-clock, 
but also to show that it hangs very high. Here the 
task of selecting the picture is complicated by a new 
requirement, and the cameraman, in choosing the 
set-up for the camera, either goes to a good distance, 
trying to get a part of the floor in the picture and 
thus show the height, or he shoots the clock from 
near but from below, bringing out its position by 
a sharp fore-shortening in perspective. If we take 
into consideration the fact that the material 
employed by the film director may be exceptionally 
complex in its form, it becomes clear how enormous 
a part is played by the selection of the camera-set-up. 


To shoot a railway-engine well implies to be able to 
select that viewpoint from which its complicated 
form will be most exhaustively and vividly apparent. 
A correctly discovered set-up determines the expres- 
siveness of the future image. 

Everything said so far has related especially to 
the shooting of motionless objects that do not 
change their position in relation to the camera. 


The work becomes yet more complicated when 
movement is introduced. An object not only has 
shape, this shape in the image alters itself func- 
tionally with its movement, and, moreover, its 
movement itself has a shape and serves as object of 

The previous desideratum remains in force. The 
camera must be so directed that every happening 
in front of it shall be visible in its clearest and 
most distinct form. Why does a shot of an army 
parade taken from above produce so vivid an 
impression ? Because it is just from above that, 
with the fullest sharpness and clearness, the energetic, 
rhythmic movement of troops can best be observed. 
Why is the impression of a rushing train or a racing 
car so effective when the object is shot so that, 
having appeared in the distance, it charges straight 
at the camera, and dashes past near it? Because 
it is in the perspective increase of the approaching 
machine that the speed of the movement is most 
distinctly represented. If we are to shoot a car and 


a chauffeur sleeping in it, the cameraman will 
place the camera on the ground near the car. But 
if we are to shoot the same car winding through the 
traffic of the street, the cameraman will shoot the 
scene from the third floor in order the better to pick 
out the movement in its form and essence. The 
selection of the camera set-up can intensify the 
expression of the image shot in many directions. 
The shooting of a railway-engine charging straight 
at the lens communicates to an exceptional degree 
the power of the gigantic machine. 

In The Battleship " Potemkin " the muzzles of the 
guns, looking straight at the spectator, are excep- 
tionally threatening. In The Virgin of Stamboul the 
galloping horses are shot by the cameraman from 
a road-ditch looking up, so that the hoofs dash by 
soaring, as it were, over the heads of the spectator, 
and the impression of a mad gallop is increased to a 
maximum. Here the work of the cameraman ceases 
to be a simple fixation of an incident independently 
of the director working on it. The quality of the 
future film depends not only on what is to be shot, 
but also on how it is to be shot. This how must be 
planned by the director and carried out by the 


By selection of the camera set-up, director and 
cameraman lead the spectator after them. The 
viewpoint of the camera is scarcely ever the exact 


viewpoint of an ordinary spectator. The power of 
the film director lies in the fact that he can force 
the spectator to see an object not as it is easiest to see 
it. The camera, changing its position, as it were, 
" behaves " in a given mode and manner. It is, as 
it were, charged with a conditioned relation to the 
object shot : now, urged by heightened interest, it 
delves into details ; now it contemplates the general 
whole of the picture. Often it places itself in the 
position of the hero and records what he sees ; 
sometimes it even " feels " with the hero. Thus, in 
The Leather Pushers, the camera sees with the eyes of 
a beaten boxer rendered dizzy by a blow, and shows 
the revolving, swimming picture of the amphitheatre. 

The camera can " feel " also with the spectator. 
Here we encounter a very interesting method of 
film-work. It can be said with completest safety 
that man apprehends the world around him in 
varying ways, depending on his emotional con- 
dition. A number of attempts on the part of the 
film director has been directed towards the creation, 
by means of special methods of shooting, of a given 
emotional condition in the spectator, and thus the 
strengthening of the impression of the scene. 
Griffith was the first to shoot tragic situations as if 
through a light mist, explaining it by his desire to 
force the spectator to see, as it were, through tears. 

In the film Strike there is an interesting sequence : 
workers out for a walk outside the town. In front of 
the strollers is an accordion-player. After the close- 
up in which the accordion is seen opening and 


shutting follows a series of pieces in which the men 
strolling are shot from various, often very distant, 
viewpoints. But the playing accordion remains 
held through all the shots, become barely visible, 
transparent. The landscapes and the groups walk- 
ing afar off are visible through it. Here has been 
solved a peculiar problem. The director wished, 
in representing the picture of the stroll, laying it in 
the wide background of the landscape, to preserve 
simultaneously the characteristic rhythm of music 
heard sounding from far away. In this he suc- 
ceeded. He succeeded thanks to the fact that the 
cameraman was able to find a concrete method for 
the realisation of the director's idea. To take this 
scene the accordion had to be swathed in black 
velvet, and it was necessary to calculate exactly the 
relative exposures of the shot with the landscape 
and of the separate shot of the accordion. A 
number of calculations had to be made, requiring a 
special knowledge of the craft of the cameraman 
and a technical inventive faculty. Here a complete 
blending of the work of director and cameraman 
was indispensable, and it conditioned the success of 
the achievement. The ideas of the director, in 
his work in making expressive the film image, only 
receive concrete embodiment when technical know- 
ledge and the creative inventive faculty of the 
cameraman go hand in hand, or, in other words, 
when the cameraman is an organic member of the 
team and takes part in the creation of the film from 
beginning to end. 



The selection of the camera set-up is but a special 
case of the work of selecting location. In working on 
location (and, on the average, fifty per cent of every 
production is made on location) 49 the first task of the 
cameraman and director is to select that part of 
space in which the scene is to develop. Such 
selection — like everything in film work — must not 
be by chance. Nature in the picture must never 
serve as background to the scene being taken, but 
must enter organically into its whole and become a 
part of its content. Every background qua back- 
ground runs counter to the basic laws of films. 
If the director require in a scene only the actor and 
his performance, then every background, with the 
exception of a flat surface inconspicuous to the 
attention, will steal a part of the spectator's atten- 
tion, and thus substantially nullify the basic method 
of film effect. 60 If something be brought into 
the picture besides the actor, this something must be 
linked to the general purpose of the scene. When, 
in Way down East, Griffith shows the lad Barthelmess 
knee-deep in thick grass, surrounded by trembling 
white daisies, bowing in the wind, in this picture 
nature does not serve as a chance background ; 
it is true that it is done in a rather sentimental way, 
but it vividly supplements and strengthens the 
image shown. The work on the formation of the 
" essence " of the picture, the necessity for an 
organic dependence between the developing action 


and the surrounding, is so indispensable and im- 
portant, that the finding and determination of the 
locations desired for exterior shots is one of the most 
complex stages in the preparatory work of the 
cameraman and director. 

One of the first requirements set in the production 
work of the film director is exactitude. If, having 
thought out the filmic image of a scene, in taking it 
he desire to get that material out of which he can 
create what he has planned, he must inevitably 
think of each piece he is taking as an element of the 
future editing construction ; and the more exact is 
his work on the components of each element being 
taken, the more perfectly and clearly he will reach 
the possibility of realising his thought. From this 
derives the peculiar relation of the film director to 
the actor, to the objects, to all the real matter with 
which he works in the course of his production. 
Each separate piece of celluloid used by the director 
in taking a required shot must be used in such a 
way that its length shall exactly conform to the 
requirements of that general task which forms the 
basis of the filmic treatment of any given scene. 
In every given piece a movement begins and 
proceeds to an exact required point, and the time 
required for this movement must be exactly deter- 
mined by the director. If the movement be 
accelerated or slowed down, the piece obtained will 
either over- or under-step the necessary length. 
Such an element of an incident, in departing from 
the length prescribed for it, will, in the process of 


editing, destroy the harmony of the filmic image 
planned. Everything chance, unorganised, every- 
thing unsubdued to the editing construction 
planned by the director in representing to himself 
the filmic image of each given incident — all this 
will lead inevitably to lack of clarity, to confusion 
in the final editing formation of the incident. An 
incident will awaken an impression from the screen 
only if it be well edited. Good editing will be 
achieved when for it is found the correct rhythm, 
and this rhythm is dependent on the relative 
lengths of the pieces, while the lengths of the pieces 
are in organic dependence on the content of each 
separate one. Therefore the director must enclose 
every shot he takes into a harsh, severely limited, 
temporal frame. 

Let us, for example, suppose that we are editably 
taking an incident with an actor. The incident is as 
follows : The actor sits in an armchair tensely 
awaiting his possible arrest. He hears that some one 
has approached the door ; he watches intensely, 
sees the handle of the door beginning to move. The 
actor slowly takes out his revolver that he had hidden 
between the back and the seat of the chair ; the 
door begins to open. He quickly aims the revolver, 
but, there enters unexpectedly, instead of the police- 
men, a boy carrying some puppies (from the film 
Beyond the Law). 

The editing is written as follows : 

1. The actor sitting in the armchair alters his 

position, as if he had heard a knock. 


2. His tense, watching face. 

3« Taken by itself : the moving door-handle. 

4. Close-up — the hand of the actor, slowly and 
fumblingly drawing the revolver. 

5. The slightly opening door. 

6. The actor aims the revolver. 

7. Through the door steps the boy with the 

The elements of the incident, by means of which 
the attention of the spectator is turned now to the 
man, now to the door, now concentrates upon the 
moving handle, now upon the hand of the actor or 
the revolver, must, finally, blend upon the screen 
to the single image of an unbrokenly developing 
incident. Undoubtedly the director must, for the 
creation of a sharp break between the slowly 
increasing tension and the unexpectedly rapid 
denouement, establish a definite, creatively discovered 
rhythm of editing. Every element of the incident 
has to be taken separately. And everything that 
the actor performs in the shooting of each piece 
must be exactly temporally limited. But it is not 
sufficient to set temporal boundaries ; within these 
boundaries the actor must carry out the given series 
of movements, must saturate every piece with the 
given clear and expressive plastic content. If room 
for chance were left in the actor's work, then not 
only a pause, a slowing down, but a superfluous 
movement on the part of the actor would already 
shatter those temporal limits that must infallibly be 


set by the director. This shattering, as we have 
already said, would alter the length of the piece, 
and thereby destroy the effect of the whole con- 
struction of the incident. We thus perceive that 
not only must temporal boundaries be exactly 
established, but also the movement form they 
enclose ; the plastic content of the acting work in 
each separate scene must be performed exactly, if 
the director wish to attain a definite result in the 
creation of that filmic image of the scene that is to 
effect an impression on the spectator from the screen, 
not now in its real, but in its filmic form. The 
exactitude of work in space and in time is an 
indispensable condition, by fulfilment of which the 
film technician can attain a clearly and vividly 
impressive filmic representation. 

The same striving for exactitude must govern the 
director and cameraman not only in scene-con- 
struction, but also in selection of the parts of location 
from which the space on the screen is to be con- 
structed. It may appear to suffice that if a river or 
a wood be required for a shot, a " pretty " river or 
wood be found and then the shooting begun. In 
reality, however, the director never seeks a river or 
a wood, he seeks the required " pictures." These 
required pictures, corresponding exactly to the 
problems of each scene, may be strewn over dozens 
of different rivers ; they will, however, be blended 
to a whole in the film. The director does not shoot 
nature ; he uses it for his future composition in 
editing. The problem set by this composition may 


be strict to such a degree that director and camera- 
man often forcibly alter and reconstruct a part of 
nature in trying to obtain the form required. The 
breaking away of interfering boughs, the felling of 
a superfluous tree, its transplantation whithersoever 
may be necessary, the damming of a river, the filling 
of it with blocks of ice — all this is characteristic for 
the film technician, always and by all means making 
use of natural material for the construction of the 
filmic image required. The employment of nature 
as material reaches its extremest expression in the 
construction of natural scenes in the studio, when 
from real earth, real stones, sand, live trees, and 
water, are exactly created in the studio just those 
forms required by the director. 

The selection of the shooting location and the 
determination of the camera set-up, as a whole 
technically termed " selection of the picture/' are 
always complicated by yet another condition. This 
condition is light. We have already spoken of the 
powerful influence of light. Light it is that finally 
creates that form which is transferred to the screen. 
Only when the object is lit in the required manner 
and to the required intensity is it ready for shooting. 
The appearance on the celluloid projected upon 
the screen is only a combination of light and dark 
specks. On the screen there is nothing but light, 
and it is quite obvious, therefore, that in controlling 
the light at the taking we are actually performing 
the work of making the future image. Feeling for 
the quality and intensity of light is inseparably 


bound up with the knowledge of that relation 
between the object and its later appearance upon 
the celluloid which belongs exclusively to the 
technique of the cameraman. 


Everything that has been said already about the 
necessity for the close relation of all those collabora- 
ting in the production of the film relates also in full 
to the cameraman. Through the director, the work 
of whom on the various processes and happenings of 
reality he transforms to filmic material, the camera- 
man is bound to the other members of the team, the 
actor and the scenarist. He, in his turn, serves as 
the connecting link between the director and the 
technicians of the laboratory, the work of which is 
the next stage of working out the film material, 
directly following the shooting. 

Only after the development of the negative and 
the printing of the positive does the director at last 
receive in pure form the film material from which 
he can assemble his work. Just as every other stage 
of film production, the work of the laboratory also 
involves more than the simple execution to pattern 
of standardised processes (chemical treatments of 
the exposed film). Its tasks are very often the con- 
tinuation of the ideas originated by the scenarist 
and pursued by the director and cameraman. The 
Griffithian twilight in America could not have been 
obtained without a developer of the necessary syn- 
thetic properties and power. Only now, when before 


us appear all the pieces necessary for the creation 
of the film, at last in the shape of images printed on 
positive stock, only now ends the organic liaison 
between all the workers on the film production, that 
liaison which is an indispensable condition of the 
creation of a " real," significant, finished work. 

The director now begins to join his detached 
pieces to a whole. We now leave him engaged on 
that basic creative process of which we spoke at 
the beginning of this essay. 51 


This essay on the film director has covered all the 
collaborators in the production of a film. It could 
not have been otherwise. The work of film- 
making has all the properties of an industrial 
undertaking. The technical manager can achieve 
nothing without foremen and workmen, and their 
collective effort will lead to no good result if every 
collaborator limit himself only to a mechanical 
performance of his narrow function. Team-work 
is that which makes every, even the most insig- 
nificant, task a part of the living work and organically 
connects it to the general task. It is a property of 
film-work that the smaller the number of persons 
direcdy taking part in it, the more disjointed is 
their activity and the worse is the finished product 
of their work — that is, the film. 

(First published as Number Five of a series of popular scientific 
film handbooks by Kinopetchat, Moscow and Leningrad, 1926.) 



(address delivered to the film society) 

FIRST of all allow me, in the name of Russian 
film-workers, to greet in your person that 
organisation [the Film Society] which was 
the first to undertake the task of acquainting the 
English public with our films. 

I ask you to forgive my bad English. Unfor- 
tunately my knowledge of it is so limited that I 
cannot speak, but must read my notes, and even 
then not very well. I shall endeavour to acquaint 
you in this short speech with some of the principles 
which form the basis of our work. When I say 
" our " I mean, in fact, the directors of the so-called 
left wing.* 

I began my work in the films quite accidentally. 
Up to 1920 I was a chemical engineer, and, to tell 
you the truth, looked at films with contempt, though 
I was very fond of art in other forms. I, like many 
others, could not agree that films were an art. I 
looked upon them as an inferior substitute for the 
stage, that is all. 

Such an attitude is not to be wondered at, 

* See note to section : Translator's Preface. 


considering how rubbishy the films shown at the 
time were. There are many such films even now ; 
in Germany nowadays they are called Kitsch. Primi- 
tive subjects calculated to appeal to the average bad 
taste — a cheap showman's booth entertainment that 
at first gives a good return to the owner, but in the 
long run demoralises the public. 

The methods applied to the preparation of such 
films have nothing in common with art. The pro- 
ducers of such films have only one thing in mind, 
and that is to photograph as many lovely girls' faces 
from as many angles as possible, and to provide the 
hero with as many victories in fights as possible, and 
to wind up with an effective kiss as finale. There 
was nothing extraordinary in the fact that such films 
could not attract any serious attention. 

But a chance meeting with a young painter and 
theoretician of the film — Kuleshov — gave an oppor- 
tunity to learn his ideas, making me change my 
views completely. It was from him that I first 
learned of the meaning of the word " montage" a 
word which played such an important part in the 
development of our film-art. 

From our contemporary point of view, Kuleshov's 
ideas were extremely simple. All he said was this : 
" In every art there must be firstly a material, and 
secondly a method of composing this material 
specially adapted to this art." The musician has 
sounds as material and composes them in time. 


The painter's materials are colour, and he combines 
them in space on the surface of the canvas. What 
then, is the material which the film director possesses, 
and what are the methods of composition of his 
material ? 

Kuleshov maintained that the material in film- 
work consists of pieces of film, and that the com- 
position method is their joining together in a 
particular, creatively discovered order. He main- 
tained that film-art does not begin when the artists 
act and the various scenes are shot — this is only the 
preparation of the material. Film-art begins from 
the moment when the director begins to combine 
and join together the various pieces of film. By 
joining them in various combinations, in different 
orders, he obtains differing results. 

Suppose, for example, we have three such pieces : 
on one is somebody's smiling face, on another is a 
frightened face, and on the third is a revolver 
pointing at somebody. 

Let us combine these pieces in two different 
orders. Let us suppose that in the first instance we 
show, first the smiling face, then the revolver, then 
the frightened face ; and that the second time we 
show the frightened face first, then the revolver, 
then the smiling face. In the first instance the 
impression we get is that the owner of the face is a 
coward ; in the second that he is brave. This is 
certainly a crude example, but from contemporary 


films we can see more subtly that it is only by an 
able and inspired combination of pieces of the shot 
film that the strongest impression can be effected in 
the audience. 

Kuleshov and I made an interesting experiment. 
We took from some film or other several close-ups 
of the well-known Russian actor Mosjukhin. We 
chose close-ups which were static and which did not 
express any feeling at all — quiet close-ups. We 
joined these close-ups, which were all similar, with 
other bits of film in three different combinations. 
In the first combination the close-up of Mosjukhin 
was immediately followed by a shot of a plate of 
soup standing on a table. It was obvious and 
certain that Mosjukhin was looking at this soup. 
In the second combination the face of Mosjukhin 
was joined to shots showing a coffin in which lay a 
dead woman. In the third the close-up was 
followed by a shot of a little girl playing with a 
funny toy bear. When we showed the three 
combinations to an audience which had not been 
let into the secret the result was terrific. The 
public raved about the acting of the artist. They 
pointed out the heavy pensiveness of his mood 
over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by 
the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead 
woman, and admired the light, happy smile with 
which he surveyed the girl at play. But we knew 
that in all three cases the face was exactly the same. 

But the combination of various pieces in one or 
another order is not sufficient. It is necessary to be 


able to control and manipulate the length of these 
pieces, because the combination of pieces of varying 
length is effective in the same way as the combina- 
tion of sounds of various length in music, by creating 
the rhythm of the film and by means of their varying 
effect on the audience. Quick, short pieces rouse 
excitement, while long pieces have a soothing effect. 

To be able to find the requisite order of shots or 
pieces, and the rhythm necessary for their combina- 
tion — that is the chief task of the director's art. 
This art we call montage — or constructive editing. 
It is only with the help of montage that I am able to 
solve problems of such complexity as the work on 
the artists' acting. 

The thing is, that I consider that the main danger 
for an actor who is working on the films is so-called 
" stagey acting." I want to work only with real 
material — this is my principle. I maintain that to 
show, alongside real water and real trees and grass, 
a property beard pasted on the actor's face, wrinkles 
traced by means of paint, or stagey acting is impos- 
sible. It is opposed to the most elementary ideas 
of style. 

But what should one do ? It is very difficult to 
work with stage actors. People so exceptionally 
talented that they can live, and not act, are very 
seldom met with, while if you ask an ordinary actor 
merely to sit quietly and not to act, he will act for 
your benefit the type of a non-acting actor. 


I have tried to work with people who had never 
seen either a play or a film, and I succeeded, with 
the help of montage, in achieving some result. It is 
true that in this method one must be very cunning ; 
it is necessary to invent thousands of tricks to create 
the mood required in the person and to catch the 
right moment to photograph him. 

For example, in the film The Heir to Jenghiz Khan, 
I wanted to have a crowd of Mongols looking with 
rapture on a precious fox-fur. I engaged a Chinese 
conjuror and photographed the faces of the Mongols 
watching him. When I joined this piece to a piece 
of the shot of fur held in the hands of the seller I got 
the result required. Once I spent endless time and 
effort trying to obtain from an actor a good-natured 
smile — it did not succeed because the actor kept 
on " acting." When I did catch a moment, and 
photographed his face smiling at a joke I made, he 
had been firmly convinced that the shooting was 

I am continuously working on the perfection of 
this method, and I believe in its future. Of course, 
one can photograph in this way only short bits of 
separate actors, and it is the art of the director, with 
the help of montage, to make out of the short bits 
a whole, a living figure. 

Not for a moment do I regret that I took this line. 
I more and more often work with casual actors, and 
I am satisfied by the results. In my last film I met 


the Mongols, absolutely uncultured people who did 
not even understand my language, and, despite this, 
the Mongols in that film can easily compete, as far 
as acting honours are concerned, with the best 

In conclusion I would like to tell you of my views 
on a very tricky question which I have met recently. 
I mean sound films. 

I think that their future is enormous, but when 
I use the expression " sound film " I do not in any 
way mean dialogue films, in which the speech and 
various sound effects are perfectly synchronised 
with their corresponding visual images on the 
screen. Such films are nothing but a photographic 
variety of stage plays. They are, of course, new and 
interesting, and will undoubtedly at first attract 
the curiosity of the public, but not for long. 

The real future belongs to sound films of another 
kind. I visualise a film in which sounds and human 
speech are wedded to the visual images on the 
screen in the same way as that in which two or 
more melodies can be combined by an orchestra. 
The sound will correspond to the film in the same 
way as the orchestra corresponds to the film to-day. 

The only difference from the method of to-day is 
that the director will have the control of the sound 
in his own hands, and not in the hands of the 
conductor of the orchestra, and that the wealth of 
those sounds will be overwhelming. All the sounds 


of the whole world, beginning with the whisper of 
a man or the cry of a child and rising to the roar of 
an explosion. The expressionism of a film can reach 
unthought-of heights. 

It can combine the fury of a man with the roar 
of a lion. The language of the cinema will achieve 
the power of the language of literature. 

But one must never show on the screen a man and 
reproduce his word exactly synchronised with the 
movements of his lips. This is cheap imitation, an 
ingenious trick that is useless to anyone. 

One of the Berlin Pressmen asked me : " Do you 
not think that it would be good to hear, for instance, 
in the film Mother, the weeping mother when she 
watches over the body of her dead husband ? " 
I answered : "If this were possible I would do it 
thus : The mother is sitting near the body and the 
audience hears clearly the sound of the water 
dripping in the wash-basin ; then comes the shot 
of the silent head of the dead man with the burning 
candle ; and here one hears a subdued weeping." 

That is how I imagine to myself a film that sounds, 
and I must point out that such a film will remain 
international. Words and sounds heard, but not 
seen on the screen, could be rendered in any 
language, and changed with the film for every 


Allow me to conclude this note by thanking you 
for the patience and attention with which you have 
listened through my address. 

(Delivered, in the present translation by I. M. and S. S. N., to 

the Film Society, in Stewart's Cafe, Regent Street, February 3, 

1929. Published, slightly amended, by the Cinema, February 6, 


(address for the workers' film federation) 

DURING the summer of the year 1930 I 
attended a meeting in the Palace of Labour 
at Moscow. Work was ended. Outside in 
the street it was raining hard, and we had to wait 
for it to stop. The globules of water rebounded 
slightly from the sill ; now they were large, now 
smaller until they vanished in the air. They moved, 
rising and falling in curves of various form, in a 
complex yet definite rhythm. Sometimes several 
streams, probably influenced by the wind, united 
into one. The water would strike upon the stone, 
scattering into a transparent, shivering fan, then fall, 
and anew the round and glistening globules would 
leap over the edge, mingling with the tiny raindrops 
descending through the air. 

What a rain ! I was but watching it, yet I felt 
to the full its freshness, its moisture, its generous 
plenty. I felt drenched in it. It poured down on 
my head and over my shoulders. Most certainly the 
earth, soaked brimful, must long have ceased to 
drink it up. The shower, as commonly occurs in 
summer, ended almost abruptly, scattering its last 
drops beneath the already brightening sun. 

I left the building and, passing through the garden, 


paused to watch a man working with a scythe. He 
was bared to the waist. The muscles of his back 
contracted and expanded with the even sweep of the 
scythe. Its damp blade, flying upwards, caught the 
sunlight and burst for a moment into a sharp, 
blinding flame. I stepped near. The scythe buried 
itself in the wet, rank grass, which, as it was cut 
away beneath, slowly gave down on to the ground 
in a supple movement impossible to describe. 
Gleaming in the slanting sunrays, the raindrops 
trembled on the tips of the pointed, drooping grass- 
blades, tumbled, and fell. The man mowed ; I 
stood and gazed. And once more I found myself 
gripped by an unaccustomed feeling of excitement 
at the grandeur of the spectacle. Never had I seen 
wet grass like this ! Never had I seen how the rain- 
drops tumble down the grooves of its narrow blades ! 
For the first time I wa§ seeing how its stalks fall as 
they yield to the sweep of the scythe ! 

And, as always, according to my invariable 
custom (doubtless one familiar to all film directors), 
I tried to imagine to myself all this represented on 
the screen. I recalled the reaping scenes recorded 
and included scores of times in an abundance of 
pictures, and felt sharply the poverty of these lifeless 
photographs in comparison with the marvellous and 
pregnant richness I had seen. One has only to 
picture to oneself the flat, grey manikin waving a 
long pole, invariably in slightly speeded tempo, to 
picture the grass shot from above and looking like 
dry, tangled matting, for it to be clear in what 



measure all this is poor and primitive. I recall even 
Eisenstein's technically magnificent General Line> 
where, worked out in a complex editing construction, 
is shown a reaping competition. Nothing of it 
remains in my memory, save men rapidly waving 
poorly distinguishable scythes. The question was 
how to capture, how to reproduce to others this full 
and profound sensation of the actual processes that 
twice this day had made me marvel. I tortured 
myself on my homeward way> flinging myself in my 
thoughts from side to side, seizing and rejecting, 
testing and being disappointed. And suddenly, at 
last, I had it ! 

When the director shoots a scene, he changes the 
position of the camera, now approaching it to the 
actor, now taking it farther away from him, according 
to the subject of his concentration of the spectator's 
attention — either some general movement or else 
some particularity, perhaps the features of an 
individual. This is the way he controls the spacial 
construction of the scene. Why should he not do 
precisely the same with the temporal ? Why should 
not a given detail be momentarily emphasised by 
retarding it on the screen, and rendering it by 
this means particularly outstanding and unprece- 
dently clear ? Was not the rain beating on the 
stone of the window-sill, the grass falling to the 
ground, retarded, in relation to me, by my sharpened 
attention ? Was it not thanks to this sharpened 
attention that I perceived ever so much more than 
I had ever seen before ? 


I tried in my mind's eye to shoot and construct the 
mowing of the grass approximately as follows : 

1. A man stands bared to the waist. In his 
hands is a scythe. Pause. He swings the scythe. 
(The whole movement goes in normal speed, i.e., 
has been recorded at normal speed.) 

2. The sweep of the scythe continues. The 
man's back and shoulders. Slowly the muscles 
play and grow tense. (Recorded very fast with 
a " slow-motion " apparatus, so that the move- 
ment on the screen comes out unusually slow.) 

3. The blade of the scythe slowly turning at the 
culmination of its sweep. A gleam of the sun 
flares up and dies out. (Shot in " slow motion.") 

4. The blade flies downward. (Normal speed.) 

5. The whole figure of the man brings back the 
scythe over the grass at normal speed. A sweep 
— back. A sweep — back. A sweep. . . . And at 
the moment when the blade of the scythe touches 
the grass — 

6. — slowly (in " slow motion ") the cut grass 
sways, topples, bending and scattering glittering 

. 7. Slowly the muscles of the back relax and the 
shoulders withdraw. 

8. Again the grass slowly topples, lies flat. 

9. The scythe-blade swiftly lifting from the 

10. Similarly swift, the man sweeping with the 
scythe. He mows, he sweeps. 


1 1 . At normal speed, a number of men mowing, 
sweeping their scythes in unison. 

12. Slowly raising his scythe a man moves off 
through the dusk. 

This is a very approximate sketch. After the 
actual shooting, I edited it differently — more com- 
plexly, using shots taken at very various speeds. 
Within each separate set-up were new, more finely 
graduated speeds. When I saw the result upon the 
screen I realised that the idea was sound. The new 
rhythm, independent of the real, deriving from the 
combination of shots at a variety of speeds, yielded 
a deepened, one might say remarkably enriched, 
sense of the process portrayed upon the screen. 

The chance spectators, who were ignorant of the 
nature of the method employed, confessed to having 
experienced an almost physical sense of moisture, 
weight, and force. I tried to shoot and edit the rain 
in the same way. I took long shots and close-ups 
at different speeds, using " slow motion." The slow 
striking of the first heavy drops against dry dust. 
They fall, scattering into separate dark globules. 
The falling of rain on a surface of water : the swift 
impact, a transparent column leaps up, slowly 
subsides, and passes away in equally slow circles. 
An increase of speed proceeds parallel with the 
strengthening of the rain and the widening of the 
set-up. The huge, wide expanse of a steadily pouring 
network of heavy rain, and then, suddenly, the sharp 
introduction of a close-up of a single stream smashing 


against a stone balustrade. As the glittering drops 
leap up — their movements are exceptionally slow — 
can be seen all the complex, wondrous play of their 
intersecting paths through the air. Once more the 
movement speeds, but already the rain is lessening. 
Closing, come shots of wet grass beneath the sun. 
The wind waves it, it slowly sways, the raindrops 
slide away, and fall. This movement, taken with 
the highest speed of the " slow-motion " camera, 
showed me for the first time that it is possible to 
record and reproduce the movement of grass before 
the wind. In earlier pictures I had seen nothing 
but a dry, hysterically trembling tangle. I am 
deeply convinced both of the need for and the sense 
of practicability achieved by this new method. 

It is of the highest importance to appreciate, in 
all its profundity, the essence of this work in " slow- 
motion," and to exploit it not as a trick, but as a 
means of consciously, at required points, retarding 
or accelerating movement to a precise degree. It is 
necessary to be able to exploit every possible speed 
of the camera, from the very highest, yielding on 
the screen exceptional slowness of movement, to the 
very least, resulting on the screen in an incredible 
swiftness. Sometimes a very slight retardation just 
of the plain and simple walk of a human being 
endows it with a weight and significance that could 
never be rendered by acting. I tried to render a 
shell explosion by an editing construction of shots 
at various speeds : Slow at the beginning ; then 
very rapid flight ; slightly retarded development ; 


the ground slowly sinks away, and then suddenly 
fragments of earth start flying very rapidly straight 
at the spectator ; for a fraction of a second an 
instantaneous change and they are flying slowly, 
crushingly and terribly, then an equally sudden 
change and once more they are flying fast. It came 
out excellently ! 

Cinematography with the " slow-motion " camera 
has long been practised. The disconcerting strange- 
ness of retarded movement on the screen, the possi- 
bility of perceiving forms that ordinarily are 
imperceptible and invisible, yet none the less 
existent in actuality, exerts so powerful an impression 
on the spectator that it is already no uncommon 
thing for directors to insert shots taken in " slow- 
motion " into their pictures. (It is to the point here 
to note that the charm of a cleverly " captured " 
movement in a drawing often depends on the same 
" slow-motion " effect, only here the role of the 
" slow-motion " camera is played by the artist's eye.) 

But all the directors who have exploited retarda- 
tion of movement have failed to do the one thing 
that, in my view, is the most important. They have 
failed to incorporate the retarded movement in the 
editing construction as a whole — in the general 
rhythmical flow of the film. Suppose they have 
been using " slow-motion " to shoot a horse jumping, 
then they have shot it as a whole, and as a whole 
inserted it in the picture, almost as a separate 
" dragged in " sequence. I have heard that Jean 
Epstein shot a whole film in " slow-motion " (I think 


it was The Fall of the House of Usher, from E. A. Poe's 
story), using the effect of retarded motion to give a 
mystical tinge to every scene. 

This is not at all what I mean. I refer to the 
incorporation of various degrees of retarded speed 
of movement integrally in the construction of a 
given editing phrase. A short-length shot in " slow- 
motion " can be placed between two longer normal- 
speeded shots, concentrating the attention of the 
spectator at the desired point for a moment. " Slow- 
motion " in editing is not a distortion of an actual 
process. It is a portrayal more profound and precise, 
a conscious guidance of the attention of the spectator. 

This is the eternal characteristic of cinemato- 
graphy. I tried to construct the blow of a fist on 
a table as follows : The fist rushes swiftly down on 
to the table, and the moment it touches it the 
subsequent shots show a glass, stood nearby, slowly 
jumping, rocking, and falling. By this conjunction 
of rapid and slow shots was produced an almost 
audible, exceptionally sharply sensed impression of 
a violent blow. The full processes shown upon the 
screen by the editing together of shots recorded at 
various speeds seem endowed with a rhythm peculiar 
to themselves, a sort of breath of life of their own. 
They are alive, for they have received the vital spark 
of an appraising, selecting, and all-comprehending 
concept. They do not slip by like landscape past 
the window of a railway carriage beneath the 
indifferent glance of a passenger familiar with the 
route. They unfold and grow, like the narrative of 


a gifted observer, who has perceived the thing or 
process more clearly than anyone else has ever done 

I am convinced that this method can be extended 
to work in shooting a man — his expression, his 
gestures. I already know by experience what 
precious material is afforded by a man's smile shot 
in " slow-motion." I have extracted from such shots 
some remarkable pauses, wherein the eyes alone are 
engaged in a smile that the lips have not yet begun 
to share. A tremendous future stretches before the 
" close-up of time. 55 Particularly in sound film, 
where the rhythm is given point and complexity by 
its conjunction with sound, particularly here is it 

(Written but not delivered as an address for the Workers' Film 
Federation Summer School, 1931, and published, in the present 
translation by I. M. and H. C. Stevens, in The Observer, Jan. 31, 
1932, by courtesy of whose editor it is now reprinted.) 



THE technical invention of sound has long 
been accomplished, and brilliant experiments 
have been made in the field of recording. 
This technical side of sound-film making may be 
regarded as already relatively perfected, at least in 
America. But there is a great difference between 
the technical development of sound and its develop- 
ment as a means of expression. The expressive 
achievements of sound still lie far behind its technical 
possibilities. I assert that many theoretical ques- 
tions whose answers are clear to us are still provided 
in practice only with the most primitive solutions. 
Theoretically, we in the Soviet Union are in advance 
of Western Europe and U.S.A. 

Our first question is : What new content can be 
brought into the cinema by the use of Sound ? It 
would be entirely false to consider sound merely as 
a mechanical device enabling us to enhance the 
naturalness of the image. Examples of such most 
primitive sound effects : in the silent cinema we 
were able to show a car, now in sound film we can 
add to its image a record of its natural sound ; or 
again, in silent film a speaking man was associated 
with a title, now we hear his voice. The role which 
sound is to play in film is much more significant 



than a slavish imitation of naturalism on these lines ; 
the first function of sound is to augment the potential 
expressiveness of the film's content. 

If we compare the sound to the silent film, we 
find that it is possible to explain the content more 
deeply to the spectator with relatively the same 
expenditure of time. It is clear that this deeper 
insight into the content of the film cannot be given 
to the spectator simply by adding an accompaniment 
of naturalistic sound ; we must do something more. 
This something more is the development of the image 
and the sound strip each along a separate rhythmic 
course. They must not be tied to one another by 
naturalistic imitation but connected as the result of 
the interplay of action. Only by this method can 
we find a new and richer form than that available 
in the silent film. Unity of sound and image is 
realised by an interplay of meanings which results, 
as we shall presently show, in a more exact rendering 
of nature than its superficial copying. In silent 
film, by our editing of a variety of images, we began 
to attain the unity and freedom that is realised in 
nature only in its abstraction by the human mind. 
Now in sound film we can, within the same strip of 
celluloid, not only edit different points in space, but 
can cut into association with the image selected 
sounds that reveal and heighten the character of 
each — wherever in silent film we had a conflict of 
but two opposing elements, now we can have four. 

A primitive example of the use of sound to reveal 
an inner content can be cited in the expression of 


the stranding of a town-bred man in the midst of the 
desert. In silent film we should have had to cut in 
a shot of the town ; now in sound film we can carry 
town-associated sounds into the desert and edit them 
there in place of the natural desert sounds. Uses of 
this kind are already familiar to film directors in 
Western Europe, but it is not generally recognised 
that the principal elements in sound film are the 
asynchronous and not the synchronous ; moreover, 
that the synchronous use is, in actual fact, only 
exceptionally correspondent to natural perception. 
This is not, as may first appear, a theoretical figment, 
but a conclusion from observation. 

For example, in actual life you, the reader, may 
suddenly hear a cry for help ; you see only the 
window ; you then look out and at first see nothing 
but the moving traffic. But you do not hear the sound 
natural to these cars and buses ; instead you hear still 
only the cry that first startled you. At last you find 
with your eyes the point from which the sound came ; 
there is a crowd, and someone is lifting the injured 
man, who is now quiet. But, now watching the man, 
you become aware of the din of traffic passing, and 
in the midst of its noise there gradually grows the 
piercing signal of the ambulance. At this your 
attention is caught by the clothes of the injured 
man : his suit is like that of your brother, who, you 
now recall, was due to visit you at two o'clock. In 
the tremendous tension that follows, the anxiety and 
uncertainty whether this possibly dying man may 
not indeed be your brother himself, all sound ceases 


and there exists for your perceptions total silence. 
Can it be two o'clock ? You look at the clock and 
at the same time you hear its ticking. This is the 
first synchronised moment of an image and its caused 
sound since first you heard the cry. 

Always there exist two rhythms, the rhythmic 
course of the objective world and the tempo and 
rhythm with which man observes this world. The 
world is a whole rhythm, while man receives 
only partial impressions of this world through his 
eyes and ears and to a lesser extent through his 
very skin. The tempo of his impressions varies with 
the rousing and calming of his emotions, while the 
rhythm of the objective world he perceives continues 
in unchanged tempo. 

The course of man's perceptions is like editing, 
the arrangement of which can make corresponding 
variations in speed, with sound just as with image. 
It is possible therefore for sound film to be made 
correspondent to the objective world and man's 
perception of it together. The image may retain 
the tempo of the world, while the sound strip follows 
the changing rhythm of the course of man's percep- 
tions, or vice versa. This is a simple and obvious 
form for counterpoint of sound and image. 

Consider now the question of straightforward 
Dialogue in sound film. In all the films I have seen, 
persons speaking have been represented in one of 
two ways. Either the director was thinking entirely 
in terms of theatre, shooting his whole speaking 
group through in one shot with a moving camera. 


Using thus the screen only as a primitive means of 
recording a natural phenomenon, exactly as it was 
used in early silent films before the discovery of the 
technical possibilities of the cinema had made it an 
art-form. Or else, on the other hand, the director 
had tried to use the experience of silent film, the art 
of montage in fact, composing the dialogue from 
separate shots that he was free to edit. But in this 
latter case the effect he gained was just as limited 
as that of the single shots taken with a moving 
camera, because he simply gave a series of close-ups 
of a man speaking, allowed him to finish the given 
phrase on his image, and then followed that shot 
with one of the man answering. In doing so the 
director made of montage and editing no more than 
a cold verbatim report, and switched the spectator's 
attention from one speaker to another without any 
adequate emotional or intellectual justification. 

Now, by means of editing, a scene in which three 
or more persons speak can be treated in a number of 
different ways. For example, the spectator's interest 
may be held by the speech of the first, and — with 
the spectator's attention — we hold the close-up of 
the first person lingering with him when his speech 
is finished and hearing the voice of the commenced 
answer of the next speaker before passing on to the 
latter's image. We see the image of the second 
speaker only after becoming acquainted with his 
voice. Here sound has preceded image. 

Or, alternatively, we can arrange the dialogue so 
that when a question occurs at the end of the given 


speech, and the spectator is interested in the answer, 
he can immediately be shown the person addressed, 
only presently hearing the answer. Here the sound 
follows the image. 

Or, yet again, the spectator having grasped the 
import of a speech may be interested in its effect. 
Accordingly, while the speech is still in progress, he 
can be shown a given listener, or indeed given a 
review of all those present and mark their reactions 
towards it. 

These examples show clearly how the director, by 
means of editing, can move his audience emotionally 
or intellectually, so that it experiences a special 
rhythm in respect to the sequence presented on the 

But such a relationship between the director in 
his cutting-room and his future audience can be 
established only if he has a psychological insight into 
the nature of his audience and its consequent 
relationship to the content of the given material. 

For instance, if the first speaker in a dialogue 
grips the attention of the audience, the second 
speaker will have to utter a number of words before 
they will so affect the consciousness of the audience 
that it will adjust its full attention to him. And, 
contrariwise, if the intervention of the second speaker 
is more vital to the scene at the moment than the 
impression made by the first speaker, then the 
audience's full attention will at once be riveted on 
him. I am sure, even, that it is possible to build up 
a dramatic incident with the recorded sound of a 


speech and the image of the unspeaking listener 
where the latter's reaction is the most urgent emotion 
in the scene. Would a director of any imagination 
handle a scene in a court of justice where a sentence 
of death is being passed by filming the judge pro- 
nouncing sentence in preference to recording visually 
the immediate reactions of the condemned ? 

In the final scenes of my first sound film Deserter 
my hero tells an audience of the forces that brought 
him to the Soviet Union. During the whole of the 
film his worse nature has been trying to stifle his 
desire to escape these forces ; therefore this moment, 
when he at last succeeds in escaping them and himself 
desires to recount his cowardice to his fellow-workers 
is the high-spot of his emotional life. Being unable to 
speak Russian, his speech has to be translated. 

At the beginning of this scene we see and hear 
shots longish in duration, first of the speaking hero, 
then of his translator. In the process of develop- 
ment of the episode the images of the translator 
become shorter and the majority of his words 
accompany the images of the hero, according as the 
interest of the audience automatically fixes on the 
latter's psychological position. We can consider 
the composition of sound in this example as similar 
to the objective rhythm and dependent on the actual 
time relationships existing between the speakers. 
Longer or shorter pauses between the voices are 
conditioned solely by the readiness or hesitation of 
the next speaker in what he wishes to say. But the 
image introduces to the screen a new element, the 


subjective emotion of the spectator and its length 
of duration ; in the image longer or shorter does 
not depend upon the identity of the speaking man, 
but upon the desire of the spectator to look for a 
longer or shorter period. Here the sound has an 
objective character, while the image is conditioned 
by subjective appreciation ; equally we may have 
the contrary — a subjective sound and an objective 
image. As illustration of this latter combination I 
cite a demonstration in the second part of Deserter ; 
here my sound is purely musical. Music, I maintain, 
must in sound film never be the accompaniment. It must 
retain its own line. 

In the second part of Deserter the image shows at 
first the broad streets of a Western capital ; suave 
police direct the progress of luxurious cars ; every- 
thing is decorous, the ebb and flow of an established 
life. The characteristic of this opening is quietness, 
until the calm surface is broken by the approach of 
a workers' demonstration bearing aloft their flag. 
The streets clear rapidly before the approaching 
demonstration, its ranks swell with every moment. 
The spirit of the demonstrators is firm, and their 
hopes rise as they advance. Our attention is turned 
to the preparations of the police ; their horses and 
motor-vehicles gather as their intervention grows 
imminent ; now their champing horses charge the 
demonstrators to break their ranks with flying hoofs, 
the demonstrators resist with all their might and 
the struggle rages fiercest round the workers' flag. 
It is a battle in which all the physical strength is 


marshalled on the side of the police, sometimes it 
prevails and the spirit of the demonstrators seems 
about to be quelled, then the tide turns and the 
demonstrators rise again on the crest of the wave ; 
at last their flag is flung down into the dust of the 
streets and trampled to a rag beneath the horses' 
hoofs. The police are arresting the workers ; their 
whole cause seems lost, suppressed never to re-arise 
— the welter of the fighting dies down — against the 
background of the defeated despair of the workers 
we return to the cool decorum of the opening of the 
scene. There is no fight left in the workers. Sud- 
denly, unexpectedly, before the eyes of the police 
inspector, the workers' flag appears hoisted anew and 
the crowd is re-formed at the end of the street. 

The course of the image twists and curves, as the 
emotion within the action rises and falls. Now, if 
we used music as an accompaniment to this image we 
should open with a quiet melody, appropriate to 
the soberly guided traffic ; at the appearance of the 
demonstration the music would alter to a march ; 
another change would come at the police prepara- 
tions, menacing the workers — here the music would 
assume a threatening character ; and when the clash 
came between workers and police — a tragic moment 
for the demonstrators — the music would follow this 
visual mood, descending ever further into themes of 
despair. Only at the resurrection of the flag could 
the music turn hopeful. A development of this type 
would give only the superficial aspect of the scene, 
the undertones of meaning would be ignored ; 


accordingly I suggested to the composer (Shaporin) 
the creation of a music the dominating emotional 
theme of which should throughout be courage and the 
certainty of ultimate victory. From beginning to 
end the music must develop in a gradual growth of 
power. This direct, unbroken theme I connected 
with the complex curves of the image. The image 
succession gives us in its progress first the emotion 
of hope, its replacement by danger, then the rousing 
of the workers' spirit of resistance, at first successful, 
at last defeated, then finally the gathering and 
reassembly of their inherent power and the hoisting 
of their flag. The image's progress curves like a sick 
man's temperature chart ; while the music in direct 
contrast is firm and steady. When the scene opens 
peacefully the music is militant ; when the demon- 
stration appears the music carries the spectators 
right into its ranks. With its batoning by the police, 
the audience feels the rousing of the workers, wrapped 
in their emotions the audience is itself emotionally 
receptive to the kicks and blows of the police. As 
the workers lose ground to the police, the insistent 
victory of the music grows ; yet again, when the 
workers are defeated and disbanded, the music 
becomes yet more powerful still in its spirit of 
victorious exaltation ; and when the workers hoist 
the flag at the end the music at last reaches its 
climax, and only now, at its conclusion, does its 
spirit coincide with that of the image. 

What role does the music play here ? Just as the 
image is an objective perception of events, so the 


music expresses the subjective appreciation of this 
objectivity. The sound reminds the audience that 
with every defeat the fighting spirit only receives new 
impetus to the struggle for final victory in the future. 
It will be appreciated that this instance, where 
the sound plays the subjective part in the film, and 
the image the objective, is only one of many diverse 
ways in which the medium of sound film allows us 
to build a counterpoint, and I maintain that only 
by such counterpoint can primitive naturalism be 
surpassed and the rich deeps of meaning potential 
in sound film creatively handled be discovered and 

(Written for this edition and Englished by Marie Seton and I. M.) 



IT is sad to find that, since the introduction of 
sound and the predominance of talking films, 
directors both in the West and in the Soviet 
Union have suddenly lost the sense of dynamic 
rhythm that they had built up during the last years 
of the silent cinema. It is almost impossible to-day 
to find a film with the sharp dramatic rhythm of, 
for instance, the Odessa Steps sequence in Potemkin, 
or of certain episodes in the early picture Intolerance, 
which belongs to the first period when the hitherto 
mechanical film record became a creative medium. 
Most of the latest sound films are characterised by 
exceedingly slow development of subject and dia- 
logue full of interminable pauses. Many directors 
are developing a talkie style that involves the use of 
explanatory words for matters that should be 
conceived visually ; this kind of style introduces 
elements from the Theatre into a medium where 
they are out of place. Theatre has its own technique, 
depending on the power of the spoken word since 
it is incapable of presenting visual changes in rapid 
sequence, while Cinema is based on the possibility 
of presenting a variety of visual impressions in a 
time and space differing from that obtaining in the 
natural material recorded. 

1 66 


I do not believe that this change of method is 
indicative of any audience change of taste. I think 
that the real situation is that directors hesitate to 
make experiments with sound, and particularly 
hesitate to apply montage to the sound strip. 

Many hold the view that, with the introduction 
of sound into film, the cutting methods established 
during the development of silent films must all go 
by the board. The development of constructive 
editing of frequent changes of shot made possible in 
silent film the achievement of great richness of visual 
form. The human eye is capable of perceiving, 
easily and immediately, the content of a succession 
of visual shots, whereas, as they point out, the ear 
cannot with the same immediacy detect the signi- 
ficance of alterations in sound. Accordingly, they 
maintain, the rhythm of changing sound must be 
much slower than need be that of changing image. 
They are right, in so far as concerns the combination 
with a succession of short images of a series of equally 
short sound effects matched with them in a purely 
naturalistic relation. Certainly it would be impos- 
sible to compose the short shots of Eisenstein's 
Odessa Steps sequence in Potemkin — the soldiers 
shooting, the woman screaming, the children 
weeping — with sound cut in a parallel manner. 
Consequently, it is held, we must make each image 
longer, thus diminishing the richness of the visual 
form ; the rapid montage of the silent film must 
give place to more leisurely scenes recorded from a 
more set distance and with a relatively fixed camera 


position, the construction being linked by the spoken 
word and not by the sequence of dynamically edited 
images. This policy, I maintain, is the line of least 
resistance, and instead of helping film to progress, 
holds it back, forcing it once again into its primitive 
position of mere photographic record of material 
actually suited to the Theatre. There is no necessity, 
in my view, to begin a sound when its corresponding 
image first appears and to cut it when its image has 
passed. Every strip of sound, speech, or music may 
develop unmodified while the images come and go 
in a sequence of short shots, or, alternatively, during 
images of longer duration the sound strip may 
change independently in a rhythm of its own. I 
believe that it is only along these lines that the 
Cinema can keep free from theatrical imitation, and 
advance beyond the bounds of Theatre, for ever 
limited by the supremacy of the spoken word, the 
fixture to one significant position throughout of 
decor and properties, the dependence of both action 
and audience's attention entirely upon the actor, and 
reduction of the world's wide globe to a single room 
less its fourth wall. 

One of the most important problems in my 
Deserter was posed by the mass scenes — meetings, 
demonstrations, etc. First, it is necessary to under- 
stand that the mass never has been and never will 
be mere quantity ; it is a differentiated quality. It 
is a collection of individuals and quite different from 
their sum ; each mass consists of groups, each group 
of persons. These may be united by one emotion 


and one thought, and in that case their mass is the 
greatest force in the world. The conflicting pro- 
cesses at work within the groups to produce this 
result afford immediately obvious dramatic material, 
and accent upon the characteristics of individuals is 
an integral part of the creation of a living mass. 
What real method can there be of creating this 
qualitatively altered mass of individuals save by the 
editing of close-ups ? I have seen a German film in 
which Danton is shown speaking to the citizens of 
Paris ; he was placed at a window, and all we were 
allowed to know of his audience was their mass 
voice, like the traditional " voices off. 5 ' Such a 
scene in a film is nothing else than a photograph of 
bad Theatre. 

In the first reel of Deserter I have a meeting 
addressed by three persons one after the other, each 
producing a complexity of reactions in their audience. 
Each one is against the other two ; sometimes a 
member of the crowd interrupts a speaker, sometimes 
two or three of the crowd have a moment's discussion 
among themselves. The whole of the scene must 
move with the crowd's swaying mood, the clash of 
opposing wills must be shown, to achieve these ends 
I cut the sound exactly as freely as I cut the image. 
I used three distinct elements. First, the speeches ; 
second, sound close-ups of the interruptions — words, 
snatches of phrases, from members of the crowd ; 
and third, the general noise of the crowd varying in 
volume and recorded independently of any image. 

I sought to compose these elements by the system 


of montage. I took sound strips and cut, for 
example, for a word of a speaker broken in half by 
an interruption, for the interrupter in turn overswept 
by the tide of noise coming from the crowd, for the 
speaker audible again, and so on. Every sound was 
individually cut and the images associated are 
sometimes much shorter than the associated sound 
piece, sometimes as long as two sound pieces — those 
of speaker and interrupter, for example — while I 
show a number of individual reactions in the 
audience. Sometimes I have cut the general crowd 
noise into the phrases with scissors, and I have found 
that with an arrangement of the various sounds by 
cutting in this way it is possible to create a clear 
and definite, almost musical, rhythm : a rhythm 
that develops and increases short piece by short piece, 
till it reaches a climax of emotional effect that swells 
like the waves on a sea. 

I maintain that directors lose all reason to be 
afraid of cutting the sound strip if they accept the 
principle of arranging it in a distinct composition. 
Provided that they are linked by a clear idea of the 
course to be pursued, various sounds can, exactly 
like images, be set side by side in montage. Re- 
member the early days of the cinema, when directors 
were afraid to cut up the visual movement on the 
screen, and how Griffith's introduction of the 
close-up was misunderstood and by many labelled 
an unnatural and consequently an inadmissible 
method. Audiences in those days even cried : 
" Where are their legs ! " 


Cutting was the development that first transformed 
the cinema from a mechanical process to a. creative 
one. The slogan Cut remains equally imperative 
now that sound film has arrived. I believe that 
sound film will approach nearer to true musical 
rhythm than silent film ever did, and this rhythm 
must derive not merely from the movement of artist 
and objects on the screen, but also — and this is the 
consideration most important for us to-day — from 
exact cutting of the sound and arrangement of the 
sound pieces into a clear counterpoint with the 

I worked out in fine rhythm, suitable to sound 
film, a special kind of musical composition for the 
May Day demonstration in Deserter. A hundred 
thousand men throng the streets, the air is filled with 
the echoing strains of massed bands, lifting the masses 
to exuberance. Into the patchwork of sound breaks 
singing, and the strains of accordions, the hooting 
of motor-cars, snatches of radio noises, shouts and 
huzzas, the powerful buzzing of aeroplanes. Certainly 
it would have been stupid to have attempted to 
create such a sound scene in the studio with 
orchestras and supers. 

In order to give my future audience a true 
impression of this gigantic perspective of mass sound, 
its echoes and its multitudinous complexities, I 
recorded real material. I used two Moscow demon- 
strations, those in May and November of one year, 
to assemble the variety of sounds necessary for my 
future montage. I recorded pieces of various music 


and sound, varying in their volume, transitions from 
bands to crowd noises, and from hurrahs to the 
whirling propellers of aeroplanes, slogans from the 
radio and snatches of our songs. Just like long-shots 
and close-ups in silent film. Then followed the task 
of editing the thousand metres of sound to create 
the hundred metres of rhythmical composition. I 
tried to use the pieces like the separate instruments 
that combine to form an orchestra. I recorded two 
marching bands, and as passage of transition from 
one to the other cut between them some dominating 
sound like a mass hurrah or a whirling propeller. I 
endeavoured to bring the pieces already possessing 
a musical rhythm of their own into a new montage 

The images that go with this sound are edited 
with similar exactness, smiling workers, merry 
marching youths, a handsome sailor and the girls 
that flirt with him. But this sequence of images is 
but one of the rhythmical lines that make up the 
whole composition ; the music is never an accom- 
paniment but a separate element of counterpoint ; 
both sound and image preserve their own line. 

Perhaps a purer example of establishing rhythm 
in sound film occurs in another part of Deserter — the 
docks section. Here again I used natural sounds, 
heavy hammers, pneumatic drills working at different 
levels, the smaller noise of fixing a rivet, voices of 
sirens and the crashing crescendo of a falling chain. 
All these sounds I shot on the dock-side, and I 
composed them on the editing table, using various 


lengths, they served to me as notes of music. As 
finale of the docks scene I made a half-symbolic 
growth of the ship in images at an accelerated pace, 
while the sound in a complicated syncopation 
mounts to an ever greater and grandiose climax. 
Here I had a real musical task, and was obliged to 
" feel " the length of each strip in the same spirit 
as a musician " feels " the accent necessary for each 

I have used only real sound because I hold the 
view that sound, like visual material, must be rich 
in its association, a thing impossible for reconstructed 
sound to be. I maintain that it is impossible arti- 
ficially to establish perspective in sound ; it is 
impossible, for instance, to secure a real effect of a 
distant siren call in a closed studio and relatively 
near the microphone. A " distant " call achieved 
by a weak tone in the studio can never create the 
same reality of effect as a loud blast recorded half 
a mile away in the open air. 

For the symphony of siren calls with which 
Deserter opens I had six steamers playing in a space 
of a mile and a half in the Port of Leningrad. They 
sounded their calls to a prescribed plan and we 
worked at night in order that we should have quiet. 

Now that I have finished Deserter I am sure that 
sound film is potentially the art of the future. It is 
not an orchestral creation centring round music, 
nor yet a theatrical dominated by the factor of the 
actor, nor even is it akin to opera, it is a synthesis 
of each and every element — the oral, the visual, the 


philosophical ; it is our opportunity to translate the 
world in all its lines and shadows into a new art 
form that has succeeded and will supersede all the 
older arts, for it is the supreme medium in which 
we can express to-day and to-morrow. 

(Written for this edition and Englished by Marie Seton and I. M.) 



IN the discussion of any technical subject it 
is necessary to employ technical terms. Tech- 
nical cinematographic terms afford wide oppor- 
tunities for ambiguity and obscurity in two ways. 
In the first place, they are usually not invented 
words, but words in common use extended to em- 
brace technical meanings, to the confusion of the 
layman. In the second place, they vary slightly 
owing to differing practices in differing countries, or 
even in different studios, to the confusion of the 
expert. It is therefore desirable to establish, by 
definition, the sense in which technical terms have 
been employed in the preceding essays. 

The word Producer in the film world is properly 
applied only to the business man, financial organiser, 
managing director of a producing concern ; the 
driving-force rather than the technical guidance 
behind any given production. Producer in the 
stage sense has become Director in the films. This 
terminology is American in origin, but is now 
universal in England also. 

The word Scenario is loosely applied to almost any 
written matter relating to the story preparation of 
a film in any of its stages. The course of develop- 
ment is roughly as follows* : The Synopsis is an 

* Theme is a term of sense almost exactly congruous to its non- 
specialist meaning. It never represents a written document, except 
possibly in the case where the film's genesis is represented by the 
producer commanding, " Make me a war-film, a film of mother- 
love, or so forth." 



outline of three or four typewritten pages containing 
the barest summary of character and action. It is 
made for the convenience of the producer or 
scenario-chooser, who may be too busy or unwilling 
to study potential subjects at length. In the 
adaptation of a book or a play, the synopsis repre- 
sents the first stage. In the case of an original film- 
story it may rather be a precis of the next stage 

This is the Treatment. A treatment is more exten- 
sive, usually from twenty to fifty pages. Here, 
although still written throughout in purely narra- 
tive form, we have, already indicated by means of 
a certain degree of detail in pictorial description, 
the actual visual potentialities of the suggested 
action. The use of the word scenario for either of 
these documents is more common with the layman 
than with the technician. Credit for a treatment 
is given, on a title or in a technical publication, 
more often by the words " Story by " than by 
association with the scenario. The words " Scenario 
by " imply work on a yet later stage — the shooting- 

The Shooting-script is the scenario in its final 
cinematograph form, with all its incidents and 
appearances broken up in numbered sequence into 
the separate images from which they will be later 
represented. These separate images are called 
Script-scenes, listed, in the typewritten abbreviation 
of a usual shooting-script, simply as Scenes — e.g. 
Scene i, Scene 2, etc. The words appearing upon 
the screen are also listed, as Main-title (the name of 
the film, and credit- titles), Sub-titles (never " cap- 
tions " — this is a layman's term). Inserts, writings that 


are part of a scene, and Superimposed titles, a term 
carrying its own meaning. 

It is evident from Pudovkin's essay on the scenario 
that an intermediate stage, quite unusual in England 
or America, intervenes in U.S.S.R. between the 
purely narrative treatment and its complete cinema- 
tographic analysis, the shooting-script. In this stage 
the titles stand already numbered, so do the separate 
tiny incidents, but there is no indication yet of the 
images to be selected to compose them. Such an 
incident Pudovkin terms a " scene, 55 using the word 
almost in the sense in which it is used in a classical 
French play, to indicate not merely a change of 
place, but even a change of circumstance such as 
the entrance or exit of a player. To avoid confusion, 
the word scene has been avoided in this text, being 
rendered by " incident, 55 except in the example 
given of this stage of treatment.* 

The Sequence is a convenient division, into a series 
of which the action naturally falls. The sequences 
are already feelable even in the purely narrative 
treatment, and may each contain numbers of inci- 
dents, or scenes (in the Pudovkin sense) . The sequence 
of the stealing of the Princess embraces all the business 
of running away with her, possibly involving inter- 
actions at several different geographical points. The 
" scene 5> (Pudovkin 5 s sense) of the Princess being stolen 
probably covers only the actual carrying her out of 
her bedroom ; dragging her down the stairs would 
be another " scene 55 (incident, in the phraseology 

* Those interested to study further the Soviet method of writing 
scenarios are referred to two published examples : that of Eisenstein 
and Alexandre v's " The General Line" published as a booklet in 
German, and extracts from Eisenstein, Alexandrov and Montagu's 
u An American Tragedy,*' published bv the late H. A. Potamkin in 
" Close-Up." 


I have employed) . The separate parts that compose 
such a " scene," the as yet further indivisible atoms 
of the film-structure,* are termed variously accord- 
ing to their function considered at the moment. In 
their philosophic function we term them separate 
images ; materially, separate pieces of celluloid ; func- 
tionally, in the shooting-script, script-scenes (abb. 
scenes) ; as separate tasks upon the floor of the studio, 
or as separate parts of a finished, edited film, Shots ; 
while in the cutting-room we find that each is 
represented by several subsimilar pieces, varying in 
number according to the number of times its action 
was respectively shot, spoken of as the several Takes 
of one shot. 

On the floor of the studio we Shoot or Take the 
shots. The latter expression is perhaps the more 
common in speaking of a script-scene in single aspect 
(" How many times did we take that scene ? "), the 
former as a general term (" We shot ten scenes before 
lunch " ; " We could not shoot to-day, because of 
fog "). The word Turn, a transliteration of which 
is used in several European languages instead of 
shoot, is used in English only of the special activity 
of a cameraman (" Who turned for you on that 
picture? "). Note that in our last example Picture 
is used to mean whole film. This sense is slang rather 
than technical. The picture should properly imply 
the composition space of an image f — i.e., Picture- 
shape, meaning screen-shape. The camera Set-up 

* The actual subdivisibility of the atom is in film paralleled only 
by those instances (double exposure and the like) in which a single 
shot is blended from the effects of more than one separate camera- 

t The composition space termed picture on the floor is termed a 
frame in the cutting-room, though its height, as a unit of the length of 


refers to its position in relation to the shot object, 
not only its distance from the object, but also its 
angle to it. If we alter the one or the other we alter 
the set-up. The Camera-angle, in this sense, is the 
relation between the vertical and horizontal axes of 
the object shot on the one hand, and the plane of the 
film at the moment of shooting on the other. The 
distances of the camera from the shot object are 
technically designated as Long-Shot, Mid-Shot, and 
Close- Up, with their manifold supplementaries. No 
two studios, directors, or scenarists will agree abso- 
lutely about the measure of these shots, which have 
constancy only in their relation to one another. One 
technician will describe a distance showing the figure 
from crown to knee as a mid-shot, another as a 
medium long-shot. The full tally is something like 
distance-shot, long-shot, medium long-shot, mid-shot, semi- 
close-up, close-up, big close-up (or, in the appropriate 
special case, big head). 

It is important to gain a clear conception of the 
activities embraced here by the word Editing. The 
word used by Pudovkin, the German and French 
word, is montage. Its only possible English equivalent 
is editing. But in England, in the trade, the editor is 
too often conceived of as a humble person, called in 
after the damage, or good, has been done upon the 
floor, to accomplish a relatively mechanical task 
upon material the effect of which has been already 
settled. The word editing, as used here in its correct 
sense, has a far wider, constructive application. It 

the picture, has then become more significant than its general shape. 
The frame, three-quarters of an inch high on the actual piece of 
standard size celluloid, is the concrete unit, repetition of which gives, 
in projection of a shot, the illusion of movement. 


covers manifold activities, not only those which 
compose in the cutting-room an appearance from 
single images, but those which, in the work on the 
script, predetermine and select those images and 
their sequence which will be necessary to form the 
later appearance proposed. In its later uses by the 
Russians — and here we often retain montage — it 
implies mounting or amounting of all the affective 
impulses of sound or vision that in one way or another 
amountedly affect the spectator. The degree to 
which the verb monter, to build or edit, is still compre- 
hended in England as implying little beyond the 
relatively mechanical concept to cut, indicates the 
degree to which an understanding of the creative 
process implied by its wider sense may be fruitful 
for the future advancement of the industry. 



I . It is interesting to note that at least three major 
films turned out so long that they were issued in two 
parts intended to be booked at successive weeks : 
Fritz Lang's Nibelungs {Siegfried, called Nibelungs in 
England, and Kriemhild's Revenge, called in England 
The She-Devil) ; the same director's Dr. Mabuse and 
Gustav Molander's Jerusalem from the Selma Lager- 
lof story. American super-productions of unusual 
length concede an interval at half-way on their 
premier showing, and are shortened subsequently 
for general release. The over-long Stroheim pictures 


Greed for Universal and Wedding March for Para- 
mount were ruthlessly cut down and the wholes have 
never been seen. On the Continent, where single- 
feature programmes are the rule, a film usually 
attains 9,000 feet— -if hours. In England and 
U.S.A., with the habit of double programmes, only 
exceptional films attain 90 minutes and the usual 
length is 70. {p. 9.) 

2. Neglect of this rule, to establish clearly the 
theme first of all and select all incident only to 
express it, was almost certainly the root cause of the 
failure of Pudovkin's penultimate film, A Simple Case. 
Not all its later devised ingenious embellishments 
could save it, the fault was in its genesis, (p. 10.) 

3. This example may be obscure to the reader 
not grounded in reformist or revolutionary politics. 
To a Russian an anarchist is a definite type — shock- 
headed, piercing eyes, spouting, impractical — in 
vivid contrast to the communist ideal of an athletic, 
disciplined, handy-man, that the hero finally be- 
comes. The replacement in the scenario of a vaguely 
turbulent character by an anarchist is thus, to a 
Russian, a gain in definiteness. It is as if a character, 
vague and intangible, were described in an English 
scenario as being " in the army." By tightening 
in revision the character is made a sergeant-major. 
Everyone in England knows what a sergeant-major 
is like ; the other persons in the story can be readily 
characterised by their reactions to him. The gain in 
definiteness is obvious, {p. 11.) 

4. How far and under what conditions are 
" spoken phrases " admissible in sound films ? The 
author gives his view on this question in essays VII 
and VIII. {p. 14.) 


5. Here in the original follows a sentence : " But 
it is necessary to know them, and the reader's atten- 
tion is recommended to the short bibliography at the 
end of this sketch." A fruitless recommendation, for, 
alas, the printer omitted the bibliography, (/>. 17.) 

6. The classic example of the creation by ex- 
traneous methods of a tension not implicit for most 
audiences in the given dramatic material is the 
Separator Sequence in The General Line. {p. 18.) 

7. Scenes and script-scenes. Refer to Glossarial 
Notes, (p. 21.) 

8. Here a wide textual alteration has been made. 
In the original the author gives guidance for sensing 
the amount of material required in each reel (rather 
than in the scenario as a whole), for " it must be 
borne in mind that each reel must, to a certain 
extent, represent a self-contained part of the picture. 
In order that the short interval necessary for chang- 
ing the reel in exhibition shall not break up the unity 
of impression, effort must be made to distribute the 
material in such a way that the intervals occur at 
the place of junction of one just completed part of 
action to the beginning of the next. In a technically 
well-constructed scenario the conclusion of a reel is 
used as a special method completing the action, 
analogous to the dropping of the curtain at the end 
of an act in the Theatre." 

These remarks were conditioned by the fact that, 
at the time of the sketch, and even now, most places 
of film exhibition in Russia are equipped with only 
one projector. The conception of the reel as a 
self-contained dramatic part has no value for the 
producer in Western Europe and America, where 
two-projector exhibition is universal, unless perhaps 


for the amateur. It should be noted, indeed, that in 
production for two-projector exhibition the reverse 
requirement obtains. The cutter should take care 
not to divide his reels at the end of a sequence. A 
short footage is almost always lost to view in each 
change-over, owing to the precautions taken by the 
operator to avoid at all costs the shattering appear- 
ance on the screen of the tag " End of Reel X " or 
" Reel X + 1." For example, the penultimate and 
last reels of Two Days. Here the Russian, relying on 
his interval, shows at the end of the penultimate reel 
a short shot of the father kneeling by his hanged son ; 
slow fade-out. Interval for lacing up the next reel. 
Fade-in, father rising to his feet. We are aware that 
he has been long dazed with sorrow, and has at last 
reached a critical impulse, to fire the house of his 
son's executioners. On a Western apparatus the 
change-over swallows all, or the best part of, the 
fades. The father appears merely to indulge in a 
more or less irrational kneeling-down and almost 
immediate standing-up, and much of the " Tight- 
ness " of the psychology of his impulse is lost. Care 
should be taken, therefore, by the cutter to divide his 
reels preferably at a place of cross-cut shots where 
loss of perhaps the last foot of one and the first foot 
of another will be insignificant, {p. 21.) 

9. Note that in a talking-film script, the dialogue 
is set out bunched up on the right-hand side of the 
page, as in a play, not between the scenes and level 
with them, as the spoken sub-titles here. {p. 21.) 

10. Refer to Glossarial Notes, {p. 23.) 

11. A girl member of the Young Communist 
League, (p. 23.) 

12. This paragraph remains equally true for 


sound films in Pudovkin's view. So long as an image 
appears it should not be casual, but selected for its 
expression ; similarly speech should not be casual — 
the speech that might happen to be uttered — but 
rigidly selected and arranged for maximum ex- 
pression. See his essays VII and VIII. (/?. 27.) 

13. The principle has a useful application, by 
converse inference, for the editor (the cutter and 
titler, called in after the damage is done) as well as 
for the scenarist. Suppose he be confronted with 
this weak scene of Olga walking out on her husband, 
already made, he can slightly strengthen it by 
weakening the preceding title — that is, making it 
more indefinite. Thus : " Olga, unable to endure 
her hard-hearted husband, came to a crucial 
decision." {p. 33.) 

14. A long experience of titling enables me to be 
not contradictory, but perhaps more definite. Three 
considerations affect titles ; they are, in order of 
descending importance : (a) content, (b) style, 
(c) compression. 

The absolutely clear significance of the content for 
the development of the action is paramount. That 
satisfied, the use of phraseology in spoken titles 
helping to characterise a speaker or his mood, or of 
style in continuity titles wedded to the momentary 
spirit of the film, may be exceedingly valuable. 
Compression, though to be considered only after the 
other two desiderata, is highly important ; though 
few spectators are analphabets, reading is, to many 
of them, an exercise, and, if the screen be full of 
type, an astonishing number make no effort to begin 
on it at all. (p. 33.) 

15. Methods of measuring title-length vary. That 


given here, though used in several studios, is an 
excessively large approximation. A more exact 
allowance is one foot for each of the first five words, 
and one foot for each subsequent pair of words. This 
presupposes that a material part of the time taken 
in reading a card is taken up, firstly, in adjustment 
to the first appearance of the card, secondly, in 
adjustment to each new word ; length of words is 
regarded as temporally relatively unimportant, for 
most long words are recognised when only a part of 
their length has been spelt out. For this view there 
is experimental support. (/>. 33.) 

16. To it belongs also the science of selection of 
fount (or script), tone, and background, (/>. 34.) 

17. To avoid interruption of the flow of rapid 
action by length in a title, the Russians introduced 
the method of " split-titles," that is, distribution of 
the essential content to be rendered on to two or 
three separated cards ; each is thus shown short in 
footage and the tempo undisturbed. Still faster, in 
his penultimate film, Pudovkin cut alternate frames 
of a title and a picture in battle scenes. This gave 
an effect of almost machine-gun rapidity. Alternate 
frame effects can also be got, perhaps more easily, 
in what is called an " optical printer." {p. 35.) 

18. The text is here slightly amended. The author 
gives as his simple form the iris-in and iris-out, 
mentioning what is called the fade only as a variant. 
Irises were used far more in the past than to-day, 
the fade has now been found to be less distracting 
to the spectator. The mere reversal of their respec- 
tive positions, with litde phrase alteration, is effective 
in modernising the passage, {p. 35.) 

19. See Note 18. {p. 36.) 


20. These effects have lately come very much 
into fashion ; they are called " wipes," and are most 
usually effected not in the camera but on the printer. 

(A 36.) 

21. The mix need not be effected at once in the 
camera ; it can be made subsequendy in the 
printing, or by various trick processes. As a matter 
of fact, however — though there is no theoretical 
reason why it should be so — such processes and 
printing machines are, in practice, nearly always 
imperfect, and result in a loss of photographic 
quality, (/>. 37.) 

22. Accomplished by means of a camera accessory, 
such a shot is termed a " pan." Accomplished by 
free-hand, it is usually termed a " swinging " shot. 


23. There is strong difference on this point. A 
costly process, owing to the time taken for the 
complex preparation of such a shot, the prodigal 
Americans use it more and more frequently, for 
such purposes as the following of a character along 
passages, up flights of stairs, and so forth. Tracking 
(and panning) are in disfavour with the left-wing 
Russian school, for, naturalists, they hold such 
methods easily tend to remind the spectator of the 
presence of the camera, {p. 38.) 

24. The same effect is often obtained by gauzes 
or cigarette smoke in front of the lens. {p. 38.) 

25. Scenes and script-scenes. Refer to Glossarial 
Notes, (p. 39.) 

26. A further wide textual alteration. Discussion 
was given of the editing of the reel (" each reel is 
a more or less complete whole, corresponding, to 
a certain degree, to an act upon the stage ") and of 


the scenario separately. In considering reels, the 
author repeated the desideratum that their material 
must be independent and self-contained, though now 
adding that, with two-projector exhibition, this is 
unnecessary. In considering the scenario as a whole, 
the author suggested the various size of reels as 
a means of sparing to the end the energy of the 
spectator. The early ones long, while he is fresh, the 
middle reels shorter, and the last reel, if necessary, 
longer again, so that the pure final action need not be 
interrupted by new lacing-up. These observations 
are significant in Western Europe and America for 
amateurs only. Refer to Note 8. {p. 45.) 

27. The author here repeated, almost word for 
word, the account of those scenes given on p. 19. 
(A 49.) 


28. The great significance here alluded to by 
Pudovkin is the economic consequence that cost of 
performance becomes a mere fraction of cost of 
production. Whereas in the theatre or concert hall, 
chief analogies in the entertainment industry, costs 
of repeat performance are relatively much nearer 
original production costs. This, not anything in their 
respective intrinsic possibilities of creative method, 
determines the paramountcy of theatre for esoteric 
groups, and puts the cinema as a mass art out on 
its own with limitless financial resources, (/>. 52.) 

29. The original here speaks of the impossibility 
of approaching " scenes," using the word in the 
classical French sense. See Glossarial Notes, {p. 57.) 

30. The net is " cheated." Any movement or 


object outside the picture-frame or otherwise un- 
remarked is said to be " cheated." {p. 57.) 

3 1 . Communist mixed Boy and Girl Scouts, (p. 58.) 

32. By a curious error of mistranslation on the 
part of the German renters of this film it has been 
customary to refer to this warship as an armoured 
cruiser (Panzerkreuzer) . Both in actuality and in the 
Russian name of the film the Potemkin is a pre- 
dreadnought battleship, the full name of which is 
Potemkin Tavritcheski (ex Pantelimon, ex Kniaz Potemkin 
Tavritcheski) . It was completed in 1900, and its 
details are given as follows : Displacement, 12,480 
metric tons ; complement, 741 ; guns, four 12", 
sixteen 6", fourteen 11 -pounders, six 3-pounders ; 
5 torpedo-tubes, speed, about 16 knots. It closely 
resembles those English classes of pre-dreadnought 
— Bulwark, Formidable, Majestic, Canopus — of which so 
many examples were lost during the war. (p. 67.) 

33. These are the marble steps leading from the 
statue of the Due de Richelieu on the boulevard to 
the docks below, (p. 67.) 

34. In the German edition the translators here 
inserted Ruttman's Berlin as a film of this kind. This 
is absurd ; Berlin was most carefully scripted and 
exactly executed, and the instance was repudiated 
by Pudovkin when brought to his attention, (p. 72.) 

35. The counter to this rule is, of course, Dziga- 
Vertov with his theory of the " Kino-eye." Dziga- 
Vertov holds that the director should stage nothing, 
simply going about quietly and unobservedly 
accumulating material with the camera, his " Kino- 
eye," and that only such a film as one in which the 
director's " interference " with the natural course 
of events is limited to choosing and eliminating 


details can properly be called documentary. It is 
all a matter of degree. At the one pole there is the 
arbitrary, staged and acted event — Chang or the 
sandstorm in Turksib, at the other the lurking 
about the streets of Ruttmann in Berlin or 
Dziga-Vertov. But even Dziga-Vertov would doubt- 
less repeat and " interfere " in the sense of the next 
text paragraph to secure certain material, (p. 74.) 

36. In England it is the whole work of one member 
of the producing team, the " continuity " or floor- 
secretary, to aid the director to keep watch on 
correspondences of this kind. (p. 79.) 

37. Recall that the director's field will alter with 
every lens. Modification of the amount of space to 
be embraced may often be effected not by change 
of set-up but by change of lens. (p. 80.) 

38. In " The Dynamic Square," Eistenstein 
eloquently pleads for all those male shapes utterly 
banned from proper screen expression by its at present 
accepted frame, (p. 81.) 

39. The Mechanism of the Brain, Reel One. (p. 83.) 

40. At the former Imperial summer residence in 
Livadea, near Yalta, (p. 89.) 

41. Pudovkin is himself a declared and practising 
disciple of the American Griffith in this matter. 
Compare the steady, inexorable flow of spring river 
ice and the marching, demonstrating workers in 
Mother ; compare the storm, existing for the story 
not in reality but only in emotion, that sweeps away 
the English at the finale of Jenghiz Khan. This last 
is his most daring and remarkable achievement. For 
the risk of introducing an emotional environmental 
effect is that it is much less likely than a real one 
to be apprehended unconsciously by the audience ; 


it may become a symbol, requiring conscious effort 
for comprehension, and risk passing the audience 
by, e.g., the Regeneration Sequence in Simple Case. 
(/>. IOI.) 

42. Recall again the Separator Sequence, General 
Line, Reel Two. (p. 104.) 

43. Example : The grimacing and painted Krauss 
standing on a real hill, pretending to influence a real 
fox, real foxhounds and horses ; a preposterous scene 
in The Student of Prague, (p. 106.) 

44. It requires such an abundance of stock on 
the regular pay-roll as can only be afforded by the 
wealthiest film-company. The herding of extras 
into a film-city, in which all companies centralise 
their studios, has, however, something of the same 
effect, (p. 108.) 

45. Many historians of the Theatre would dis- 
agree, (p. no.) 

46. For Pudovkin's views on the proper relation 
of speeches and movements in dialogue film see 
essays VII and VIII. (p. 1 15.) 

47. Remember also the face of the Mongol in the 
finale of The Heir to Jenghiz Khan. {p. 119.) 

48. Soft-focus, refer note 24 (p. 122). 

49. This is a considerable over-estimate for the 
conditions of commercial film production in the 
West. Companies with big studio investments hate 
going on location ; they must keep their studios 
occupied to cover their overheads, (p. 129). 

50. This, of course, the elimination of the supere- 
rogatory, is what makes the Close-up the keystone 
of the whole power and effectiveness of the cinema. 
A measure — the ultimate possible — of the uncon- 
sciousness of the West and its innocence of theory 


was seen at that meeting of the Academy of Motion 
Picture Arts and Sciences, the would-be learned 
society of Hollywood, at which were delivered 
Eisenstein's remarks on " The Dynamic Square." 
This meeting was called to consider Wide Film. 
A prominent cameraman from Fox was recounting 
his experiences. Although one could not approach 
close enough to the subject to secure a close-up, he 
declared this was no drawback, for the image on 
the screen was so large that the characters 5 expres- 
sions could none the less be clearly discerned even 
in mid-shot ! Despite the presence of a multitude 
of directors and leading technicians from every 
studio, this astounding appraisal excited no remark. 
To this day, though their pragmatism has taught them 
to drop Wide Film after stinging losses, the big 
companies are probably quite mystified and unable 
to account for the public's indifference to it. (p. 129.) 

51. There is a growing tendency, alas, in England 
and America for the director too to leave, his picture 
at this point passing to an " editor." It derives from 
commercial envy of the " quickies," and must tend, 
with them, to standardisation and mechanicalisation 
of style, (/>. 136.) 

52. In spite of this address it should be noted that 
Pudovkin does very often use actors. Inkishinov, 
Baranovskaia, Batalov, Baturin, are examples of 
more or less experienced actors in leading roles in 
his films. Other equally important parts are, it is 
true, played by complete novices and he certainly 
handles them all, experienced and otherwise, with 
the technique prescribed here for the handling of 
types. Dovzhenko uses types rather more, and only 
Eisenstein invariably, {p. 137). 


53. Various means of obtaining " Close-ups in 
Time " have been used previously by directors other 
than the quoted Epstein. Turning the camera fast — 
though not in actual exaggerated slow-motion as in 
these experiments — is not at all uncommon for 
certain underlinings. Some of Fairbanks athletic 
feats were probably recorded in this way to em- 
phasise their grace. Eisenstein, on the other hand, 
has always emphasised his moments by repetitive 
cutting. Recall the repetition in the enthroning in 
the tractor in the last reel of General Line, in the 
bridge scene of October, and as for the Odessa Steps 
scene in Potemkin — you will find that the soldiers 
march down this whole length two or three times if 
all the descent shots are added together. These are 
other technical means to the same end as the 
experiments in A Simple Case here described, (p. 146). 



The Mechanism of the Brain (Mejrabpom-russ, 1925) 

Technical scientific direction : Professor L. N. 
Voskresenski and Professor D. S. Fursikov. 

Technical cinematographic direction : V. I. 

Physiological experiments and operations : Pro- 
fessor D. S. Fursikov. 

Animal-life direction : L. N. Danilov. 

Conditional reflex experiments on children : 
Professor N. I. Krasnogorski. 


Child-life direction : Professor A. S. Durnovo. 
Diagrams : I. Vano, D. Tcherkess, V. Merku- 

Photography : A. N. Golovnia. 

A documentary film illustrative of compara- 
tive mental processes, more particularly of the 
progress in knowledge of conditioned reflexes 
attained by workers in Professor Pavlov's labora- 
tory at the Academy of Sciences, Leningrad. 
Regarded as unsuitable for public presentation 
by the B.B. of F.C., February 1929. First 
exhibited in England, privately, to the Royal 
Society of Medicine (Neurological Section), 
March, 1929. 

2. The Chess Player (Mejrabpom-russ, 1926). 

Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 

A short comedy in which, by means of an 
experiment in cutting and editing, J. R. Capa- 
blanca is made to appear to play a part. 

3. Mother (Mejrabpom-russ, 1926). 

Based on the story by Maxim Gorki. 

Scenario : N. A. Zarkhi. 

Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 

Art Direction : S. V. Koslovski. 

Photography : A. N. Golovnia. 

Cast : The father— A. Tchistiakov* ; the mother 

— Vera Baranovskaia ; the son — Nikolai Bata- 


Baranovskaia and Batalov are professionals, 
Tchistiakov is an accountant of Mejrabpom, 
he has appeared in each of Pudovkin's subse- 
quent films. A small part in the film, that of a 

* Kenneth Macpherson, in Bryher's Film Problems of Soviet Russia 
(q.v.), identifies this character as the actor Leinstiakov. 


mild, bespectacled officer, is played by Pudov- 
kin. First performed in England, privately, at 
the Film Society, October 1928. Regarded as 
unsuitable for public presentation by the B.B. 
of F.C., November 1928. 

4. The End of St. Petersburg (Mejrabpom-russ, 1927). 

Scenario : N. A. Zarkhi. 

Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 

Art Direction : S. V. Koslovski. 

Photography : A. N. Golovnia. 

Cast : The Bolshevik — A. Tchistiakov ; his 

wife — V. Baranovskaia ; the peasant boy — 

I. Tchuvelev ; Lebedeu — V. Obolenski ; a 

jingo — V. Tsoppi. 

The peasant boy is played by a peasant, 
whose brother appears, also as a peasant boy, 
in the blackleg scene. The part of his preg- 
nant mother is played by a peasant woman. 
The stockbrokers are all former stockbrokers. 
Obolenski similarly a member of the former 
governing class. First performed in England, 
privately, at the Film Society, February 1929. 

5. The Heir to Jenghiz Khan (Mejrabpom-film, 1928). 

Based on a story by Novokshenov. 

Scenario : O. Brik. 

Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 

Art Direction : S. V. Koslovski and Aronson. 

Photography : A. N. Golovnia. 

Cast : The Mongol — V. Inkishinov ; his father — 
I. Inkishinov ; the Partisan leader — A. Tchistia- 
kov ; the Commandant — L. Dedintsev ; his 
wife — L. Billinskaia ; his daughter — Anna Suja- 
kevitch ; a fur-trader — V. Tsoppi ; a soldier 
— K. Gurniak ; a missionary — R. Pro. 


The four last-named actors are professionals. 
Inkishinov is assistant producer in the Meyer- 
hold Theatre. His father in the film is played 
by his actual father, on the location in which he 
has always lived. The Mongols and Mongolian 
ceremonies are actual. The film was regarded 
as unsuitable for public presentation by the B.B. 
of F.C., August 1929. First presented in 
England, privately, at the Film Society, February 


6. The Story of a Simple Case (Mejrabpom-film, 193 1). 

Theme : M. Koltsova. 

Scenario : A. Rzheshevski. 

Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 

Photography : G. Kabalov. 

Cast : (Prologue) Worker — A. Gortchilin ; his 

wife — Tchekulayeva ; son — M. Kashtelian ; 

(Story) Uncle Sasha — A. Tchistiakov ; Paul 

Langovoi — A. Baturin ; Fedya £heltikov — V. 

Kuzmitch ; Masha Langovoi — E. Rogulina ; 

the second wife — M. Belousova. 

Baturin is a concert-singer ; Kuzmitch 
actually a Red Army Officer ; Belousova a 
Professor of Psychology. The film was first 
presented in England, privately, at the Film 
Society, May 1933 ; it has been withdrawn in 
the U.S.S.R. It was at first provisionally named 
Life is Grand, 

7. Deserter (Mejrabpom-film, 1933). 

Scenario : N. Agadjanova-Shutko, M. Krasno- 

stavski, A. Lezebnikov. 
Direction : V. I. Pudovkin. 
Art Direction : A. Kozlovski. 
Photography : A. N. Golovnia. 


Sound Recording : E. Nesterov. 

Music : I. Shaporin. 

Sound System : Tagephon. 

Cast : Boris Livanov, M. Aleshchenko, A. Bes- 

perotov, S. Gerasimov, I. Gliser, K. Gurniak, 

A. Konsovski, V. Kovrigin, I. Lavrov, T. 

Makarova, T. Svashenko, A. Tchistiakov, 

V. Uralski. 


Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 

Hollywood, 191 
Academy of Sciences, Leningrad, 193 
Adventures of Mr. West, The : L. V. Kuleshov, 

Mejrabpom-russ, 1924, x, 18 
Agadjanova-Shutko, N., scenarist, 195 
Aleshchenko, M., actor, 196 
Alexandrov, G. V., film director, 177 
America : D. W. Griffith, United Artists, 1923, 98, 

in, 135 
"American Tragedy, An," scenario, 177 
Aristotle, viii 

Arnheim, Rudolf, writer, xi 
Aronson, art director, 194 


BalAzs, Bela, writer, 8 

Baranovskaia, Vera, actress, 191, 193, 194 

Barthelmess, Richard, actor, 100, 129 


Batalov, Nikolai, actor, 191, 193 

Battleship " Potemkin" The : S. M. Eisenstein, Sov- 

kino, 1925, 67, 85, 87, 97, 115, 119, 122, 126, 166, 

167, 192 
Baturin, A., actor, 191, 195 
Belousova, M., actress, 195 

Berlin : W. Ruttmann, Fox Europa, 1928, 188, 189 
Besperotov, A., actor, 196 
Beyond the Law : not identified, 131 
Billinskaia, L., actress, 194 
Brik, O., scenarist, 194 
British Board of Film Censors, 193, 194, 195 
Brunei, Adrian, x, xi 
Bryher, writer, 193 
Buchanan, Andrew, film director, xi 


Capablanga, Jos£ Raoul, 193 

Chang : M. C. Cooper and E. B. Schoedsack, Para- 
mount, 1927, 189 

Chaplin, Charles, vii, 105 

Chess Player, The (P.), 193 

" Cinema," journal, London, 145 

" Cinema," journal, New York, xi 

" Cinema Quarterly," journal, xi 

" Cinematic Principle and the Japanese Theatre, 
The," essay, xi 

" Close-Up," journal, xi, 177 

Colon, Cristobal, ix 

Cupid, 88 


Daddy : Sol Lesser (Jackie Coogan), First National) 
1923, 68 


Danilov, L. N., director of Zoological Park, Lenin- 
grad, 192 
Danton, Georges Jacques, 169 
Days of Struggle, The : Perestiani, 1920, x 
Dedintsev, L., actor, 194 

Deserter (P.), 161, 162, 168, 169, 171, 172, 173, 195 
" Detective Work in the G.I.K.," essay, xi 
Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler: F. Lang, Ufa, 1922, 180 
" Doing without Actors," essay, xi 
Dovzhenko, Alexander, film director, ix, 191 
Durnovo, Professor A. S., psychologist, 193 
" Dynamic Square, The," address, xi, 189, 191 
Dziga-Vertov, film director, 188, 189 

Einstein, Albert, ix 

Eisenstein, S. M. (correctly transliterated Eizen- 

shtein), ix, xi, 67, 87, 88, 148, 167, 177, 189, 191, 

End of St. Petersburg, The (P.), xv, xvi, 194 
Epstein, Jean, film director, 152, 192 
Ermler, Friedrich, film director, ix 
" Experimental Cinema," journal, xi 

Fairbanks, Douglas, 105, 192 

Fall of the House of Usher, The : J. Epstein, Epstein 

Productions, 1929, 153 
Famine : not identified, 34 
" Film," book, xi 
" Film Art," journal, xi 
" Film Problems of Soviet Russia," book, 193 


" Filmregie and Filmmanuskript," book, xviii 
Fraenkel, Heinrich, x 
Film Society, ix, 137, 145, 194, 195 
" Film Weekly," journal, xviii 
Fox, film producers, 191 

Friedland, Georg and Nadia, translators, xviii 
Fursikov, Professor D. S., of Professor Pavlov's 
laboratory, 192 



Gay Canary, The : L. V. Kuleshov, Mejrabpom-film. 

1928, x 
" General Line, The," book, 177 
General Line, The : S. M. Eisenstein, Sovkino, 1929, 

148, 182, 190, 192 
Gerasimov, S., actor, 196 
Gish, Lilian, actress, 100, in 
Gliser, L, actor, 196 
Gogol, Nikolai, 60 
Goldman, Hazel, xi 

Golovnia, Anatolia N., cameraman, 193, 194, 195 
Gorki, Maxim, 193 
Gortchilin, A., actor, 195 
Greed (from " McTeague ") : E. Stroheim, Metro- 

Goldwyn, 1923, 181 
Griffith, David Wark, 19, 20, 65, 67, 86, 98, 100, 

105, 106, in, 118, 122, 127, 129, 135, 170, 189 
Gurniak, K., actor, 194, 196 


Hammer and Sickle, The : V. R. Gardin, 1921, x 
Heir to Jenghiz Khan, The (P.), 142, 189, 190, 194 
Hellstern, Eileen, x 




Inkishinov, V., actor, 191, 194, 195 

Intolerance: D. W. Griffith, David Wark Griffith 

Corporation, 1916, 7, 19, 49, 65, III, 166 
Isle of Lost Ships, The : Maurice Tourneur (Milton 

Sills and Anna Q,. Nilsson), First National, 1923, 


Jerusalem : G. Molander, Nordwesti, 1926, 180 

Kabalov, G., cameraman, 195 
Kashtelian, M., actor, 195 
" Kino-Eye, The," theory, 188 
Kinopetchat, publishing organisation, 50, 136 
Koltsova, M., writer, 195 
Konsovski, A., actor, 196 
Koslovski, S. V., art director, 193, 194 
Kovrigin, V., actor, 196 
Kozintsev, G., film director, ix 
Kozlovski, A., art director, 195 
Krasnogorski, Professor N. I., psychologist, 192 
Krasnostavski, M., scenarist, 195 
Krauss, Werner, actor, 190 
Kriemhild's Revenge : see The Nibelungs 
Kuleshov, L. V., viii, x, 60, 61, 117, 138, 139, 140 
Kuzmitch, V., actor, 195 

Lagerlof, Selma, writer, 180 
Lang, Fritz, film director, 180 
Lavrov, I., actor, 196 


Leather Pushers, The (Reginald Denny), Universal, 

1922, 29, 127 
Leinstiakov, actor, 193 
Lezebnikov, A., scenarist, 196 
Lichtbildbuehne, publishers, x, xviii 
Life is Grand : see The Story of a Simple Case 
Livanov, Boris, actor, 195 

Living Corpse, The : F. Otsep, Prometheus, 1929, x 
Lloyd, Harold, actor, 105 
Love and Sacrifice : see America 
Lubitsch, Ernst, film director, vii 


MagPhail, Angus, x 

Macpherson, Kenneth, writer, 193 

Makarova, T., actress, 196 

Marsh, Mae, actress, 106, in, 119 

Mechanism of the Brain, The (P.), 189, 192 

Mejrabpom-film, producing organisation, 194, 195 

Mejrabpom-russ, (see Mejrabpom-film), 192, 193, 

Mendel, Abbot Gregor, vii 
Merkulov, V., animator, 193 
Meyerhold, Vsevolod, theatrical producer, 195 
Molander, Gustaf, film director, 180 
Montagu, I., xviii, 145, 154, 165, 174, 177 
Mosjukhin, Ivan, actor, 140 
Moskvin, Ivan, actor, 114 
Mother (P.), xvii, 144, 189, 193 


Nesterov, E., sound recordist, 196 
Nibelungs, The : F. Lang, Ufa, 1924, 180 


Nolbandov, S. S., x 
Novokshenov, author, 194 


Obolenski, V., actor, 194 

" Observer, The," journal, 154 

October: S. M. Eisenstein, Sokvino, 1927, 192 

Old and the New, The : see The General Line 

Orphans of the Storm, The : D. W. Griffith, United 

Artists, 1921, in 
Otsep, Fiodor, film director, x 

Paramount, film producers, 181 

Pavlov, Professor I. P., 193 

Perestiani, film director, x 

Peter the Great, xvi 

Pickford, Mary, 105, 106 

Poe, E. A., writer, 153 

" Principles of Film Form, The," essay, xi 

Postmaster, The : Y. A. Jeliabujski, Mejrabpom-russ, 

i925>. IJ 4 
Potamkin, H. A., writer, 177 

Pro, R., actor, 194 

Procrustes, viii 

Pudovkin, V. I., viii, ix, xi, 177, 179, 181, 184, 185, 

187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195 

Ray of Death, The : L. V. Kuleshov, Mejrabpom- 
russ, 1925, 104 
Remnants of a Wreck, The : not identified, 97 


Richelieu, Armand Emmanuel du Plessis, Due de f 

Rogulina, E., actress, 195 
Royal Society of Medicine, 193 
Ruttmann, Walter, 188, 189 
Rzheshevski, A., scenarist, 195 

Samson, 106 

Saturday Night : Cecil B. de Mille (Conrad Nagel and 

Leatrice Joy), Famous Players-Lasky, 1922, 14 
Saviour, St., 60 
Seton, Marie, xi, 165, 174 
Shaporin, L, composer, 164, 196 
She-Devil, The : see The Mbelungs 
Siegfried : see The Mbelungs 
" Sichtbare Mensch, Der," book, 8 
Stevens, H. C, translator, 154 
Storm over Asia : see The Heir to Jenghiz Khan 
Story of a Simple Case, The (P.), 181, 190, 192, 195 
Strike : S. M. Eisenstein, Sovkino, 1925, 49, 127 
Stroheim, Erich, film director, 180 
Student of Prague, The : Henrik Galeen (Conrad 

Veidt), Sokal, 1926, 190 
Sujakevitch, Anna, actress, 194 
Svashenko, T., actor, 196 


Tagephon, sound system, 196 
Tchekulayeva, actress, 195 
Tcherkess, D., animator, 193 
Tchistiakov, A., actor, 193, 194, 195, 196 
Tchuvelev, I., actor, 194 


Ten Days that Shook the World : see October 

Tisse, EduarcL cameraman, 85 

Tol' able David : Henry King (Richard Barthelmess), 

First National, 1922, 27, 32, 96, 97, 104, 113 
Tolstoy, Leo, x 
" Transition," journal, xi 
Trauberg, Ilya, film director, ix 
Trauberg, Lev, film director, ix 
Tsoppi, V., actor, 194 
Turksib : Turin, Sokvino, 1929, 189 
Two Days, Georgi Stabavoi, Vufku, 1928, 183 


Universal, film producers, 181 
Uralski, V., actor, 196 


Vano, I., animator, 193 

Virgin of Stamboul, The (Priscilla Dean), Universal, 

1920, 126 
Voskresenski, Professor L. N., physiologist, 192 


Way Down East : D. W. Griffith, United Artists, 

1920, 100, 129 
Wedding March, The : E. Stroheim, Paramount, 

1928, 181 
Workers' Film Federation, 154 


Zarkhi, N. A., scenarist, 193, 194 


Non-professional as an old woman 
" Simple Case," Pudovkin. 




I. The Theatre and the Cinema 

II. The Basic Contradiction of the 
Actor's Work 

III. Discontinuity in the Actor's Work 

in the Cinema 

IV. Theoretical Postulates of Discon 

tinuity .... 

V. Rehearsal Work . 
VI. The Editing Image. 
VII. Dialogue .... 

VIII. Dual Rhythm of Sound and Image 90 

IX. Intonation, Make-up, Gesture 

X. Realism of the Acted Image 

XI. Work with Non- Actors 

XII. Casting ..... 

XIII. The Creative Collective 

XIV. Personal Experiences 

XV. Conclusions .... 






l 5 l 



I. Non-professional as an old woman. Frontispiece 
" Simple Case," Pudovkin 


II. Savitsky, non-professional (former Si- 
berian Red Partisan), as a strike- 

" Mother," Pudovkin 14 

III. Tchistiakov, then non-professional (book- 

keeper since become actor), as the 

" Mother, 5 ' Pudovkin 1 7 

IV. Batalov, actor, as the son. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 21 

V. Rogulina, then first-year student at the 
G.I.K. (State Institute of Cinemato- 
graphy, Moscow), as Masha, wife of the 
Red Army Commander. 

" Simple Case," Pudovkin 28 

VI. Tchuvelev, actor, as a peasant boy, and 
Baranovskaya, actress, as a worker's 

" End of St. Petersburg," Pudovkin 32 

VII. Tchuvelev, actor, as a peasant boy. 

" End of St. Petersburg," Pudovkin 37 

VIII. Pudovkin as a police officer, and Bara- 
novskaya, actress, as the mother. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 44 
h* 7 



IX. Sovrotchin, actor, as a strike-breaker. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 49 

X. Pudovkin as a bourgeois of the Empire. 

" New Babylon," Kozintsev and Trauberg 53 

XI. Tchistiakov, then non-professional, as 
the father. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 60 

XII. Pudovkin as a docker. 

" Deserter," Pudovkin 64 

XIII. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 69 

XIV. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 76 

XV. Tchistiakov, now actor, as Fritz, a 
German workers' leader. 

" Deserter," Pudovkin 81 

XVI. Livanov, actor, as a German worker. 

" Deserter," Pudovkin 85 

XVII. Non-professional in small part. 

" Deserter," Pudovkin 92 

XVIII. Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 96 

XIX. Non-professional (Red Army man from 
Odessa), in small part. 

" Simple Case," Pudovkin 101 

XX. Unnamed player as a jail officer. 

" Mother," Pudovkin 108 



XXI. Pudovkin as Fedya and Vvedensky, 
actor, as the informer, 

" Living Corpse," Otsep 117 

XXII. Pudovkin as Fedya and Nata Vashnadze, 
actress, as Masha, the gipsy. 

" Living Corpse, 55 Otsep 124 

XXIII. Livanov, actor, as a German worker and 

a boy, non-professional, as the son of a 
slain German worker. 

" Deserter, 55 Pudovkin 129 

XXIV. Pudovkin as Fedya and Vvedensky, 

actor, as the informer. 

" Living Corpse, 55 Otsep 144 



Discussion of such questions as the interrelationship 
between film and stage, the necessity for the cinema 
to absorb and benefit from the traditions and dis- 
coveries of the theatre, the respective problems of 
film acting and stage acting, etc., is often along en- 
tirely wrong lines. The only profitable basis for 
such discussion, too often disregarded, is the con- 
sideration of the cinema in its aspect as a step in the 
development of the theatre. 

To understand what we must discard, and what 
preserve or alter, in our stage heritage we must first 
appreciate those technical possibilities which dis- 
tinguish the new nature of cinema from the nature 
of theatre. 

I use with purpose the word possibilities, because 
not only theoreticians, but many practical film 
workers also, limit their achievement by regarding 
the cinema as little more than a photograph, 
mechanically recording what in essence basically 
remains a theatrical performance conditioned by the 
specific technical conditions of the theatre. 

The intrinsic possibilities of the cinema are only 


realised in full when its new technical means are ex- 
ploited, not merely in a mechanical fixation of the 
forces already found and used by the stage, but also 
in the discovery of novel, often more profound and 
more expressive methods of communicating to the 
spectator the concept of the creative artist. We shall 
always be in a position to use a camera merely to 
photograph a theatrical performance, and this mere 
mechanical use of it can, in fact, be of definite service 
in educational work. But, I repeat, the mechanical 
transference to the screen of a stage show, with all the 
limitations conditioned by the latter's technical 
methods, is not the proper line of development of the 

The fight against theatricality in the cinema in no 
way implies antagonism to the stage as such. It only 
puts before us as our task, simply and clearly, the 
examination and analysis of the contradictions arising in the 
process of the development of the theatre, and their resolution 
in the cinema, not by slavish imitation of the theatre's solu- 
tion, but by use of the cinema's own technical possibilities. 
It means repudiation of a number of theatrical 
methods and discovery and acceptance of analogous 
specific filmic methods. 

It is thus clear that, to discover the specific charac- 
ter of the work of the film actor, our first task is to 
analyse the contradictions in the work of the stage 
actor. And, equally essential, to appreciate sharply 
the distinction between the material-technical basis 
of theatre and the material-technical basis of cinema. 

What prime basic contradiction of the theatre is 


eliminated in the cinema ? Every several work of 
art may be defined as an act of collective perception 
and modification of reality. This is to say that every 
work of art is to be regarded not as a process of two 
factors — the creative artist and the work created — 
but as a more complex process, consisting of three 
factors: the creative artist, the work created, and the 
spectator apprehending it. 

The act of perception of a fragment of reality, 
recorded and fixed by the artist in the work he 
creates, resumes life and repeats itself in perception 
by a multitude of spectators. In concert with the 
artist, the spectator likewise perceives a part of real- 
ity, and, in his act of doing so, thereby transmutes 
the work of art to a social-historical phenomenon, 
i.e. from a paper, or canvas or celluloid symbol to an 
actual process. 

A stage show, exactly as any other work of art, has 
real existence only in respect to its contact with the 
spectator. The Soviet artist has for his spectator 
the whole population of the Soviet Union ; ulti- 
mately, the population of the world. What does 
any given stage show represent in terms of its em- 
brace of the mass spectator ? The numerical em- 
brace of one stage production performed in an 
average-sized theatre throughout one year would be 
approximately 100,000 spectators. The embrace of 
a theatrical art work is widened by its production 
in a number of other theatres. But, even granted a 
high technical level of the theatrical network, the 
productions staged in Moscow will differ qualita- 


tively from those staged in Odessa, Kiev, and Kazan. 
They will inevitably vary with the coefficients of 
method and skill of the producers, with the casts, 
with the technical resources of the respective 
theatres. Even in the same town it is certain that 
there will be qualitative difference in production of 
the same play in different theatres. Suppose we go 
farther, and consider the ultimate embrace of the 
many-millioned spectator of the colkhoz, 1 we imme- 
diately encounter a qualitative difference of the 
highest degree. Contrast a production at the First 
Moscow Art Theatre, and at a colkhoz theatre, 
which not even the most perfect conceivable organi- 
sation of the on-tour system could contrive to service 
with acting forces of first strength. 

Consequently, in the theatre, the widening of its 
network is in direct contradiction with the quality 
of its performance. The theatre has, however, one 
further technical means of expanding its spectator- 
embrace, and that is, increase in the size of its 
auditorium. Here too, however, there is a definite 
limit beyond which this contradiction implicit in the 
very nature of the stage show comes once again to 
the fore. The first desideratum for the actor is that 
he must be distinctly seen and heard. In order to be 
distinctly perceptible to a larger number of specta- 
tors the actor studies voice delivery, learns to make 
his gestures obvious and clear without losing their 
intrinsic character, he learns, in short, to move and 

1 Collective farm, each with its own cultural facilities, including 
theatre.— Tr. 


Savitsky, non-professional (former Siberian Red 
Partisan), as a strike-breaker. 

" Mother," Pudovkin. 


speak in such a way that he can be seen and heard 
distincdy from the last row in the gallery. 

But the broader an acting gesture, the less it can 
be shaded. The more intensified the actor's tones, 
the more difficult it is for him to transmit to the 
spectator the finer shades of his voice. Loudness of 
tone and widening of gesture lead to generalised 
form and stylisation, which tend as a technique 
inevitably to become dry and cold. The depth and 
realism of the image that the actor creates tend 
to vary inversely with the size of the audience that 
sees his performance. Increase in size of a theatrical 
building has thus a boundary beyond which the 
building itself dictates the actual form of the pro- 
duction, even its transmutation into specialised forms 
of mass spectacle: festivals, carnivals, parades, etc. 

We perceive from these considerations that stage 
art, in the circumstances obtaining in practice, 
evinces a contradiction between numerical increase 
of its audience (along two possible lines) and qualita- 
tive improvement of performance. 

How is this contradiction escaped in the cinema ? 
The degree of quality in the work of art is fixed once 
and for all at the time of single production of the 
film. The quality attained can be conveyed un- 
modified to any audience by means of a cinema 
network capable of development to any dimen- 
sion. The measure of spectator-embrace is solved 
simply by the specific technical character of the 
cinema. The spectator-embrace can be increased 
in number to include the entire population of the 


world. The quality of the performance at any given 
point in the network, however remote from the 
centre, varies solely as the quality of the technical 
equipment of the given theatre at which it takes 
place, and this is merely a matter of standardisation. 
At some future date it may well be that every dwell- 
ing will have a projection equipment, operated by 
some improved form of radio-television, and giving 
the possibility of simultaneous and uniform presenta- 
tion of a film in every conceivable corner of the 

Certainly the same means might be used for 
simultaneous and ubiquitous transmission of a 
theatrical performance. But the cinema's property 
of indefinitely repeating its performance at its fixed 
and optimal degree of quality will remain unique. 

The second aspect of the contradiction in theatri- 
cal acting, also referred to above, quality varying 
inversely with the size of the auditorium, is equally 
solved in the cinema. The size of the cinema theatre 
is no handicap to performance, for the possibility 
of increase in size of the screen, or in number of the 
sound-reproducers, is unlimited. Thus, at the time 
of shooting, the actor can speak without straining 
his tones in the slightest, he is free to exercise the 
finest shading of voice and gesture. We shall later 
have to discuss the importance of this fact for the 
special character of film acting. 

I now come to a new contradiction, arisen from 
the influence upon theatrical development of our 
contemporary life. The artist, drawing the specta- 







£ 5 


tor into a joint perception and modification of 
reality with him in the process of creating and 
apprehending the work of art, has a general ten- 
dency to embrace his fragment of reality as widely 
and deeply as he can. In an epoch such as ours, 
wherein the tempestuous development of reality 
continually outpaces the generalisation of it in 
human thought, it is natural that this tendency 
should express itself in an endeavour to deal realisti- 
cally with the innumerable only newly discovered 
facets of this reality. 

The eager desire to discover, beyond each 
generalisation, the living complexity of life, ever 
new-faceted, inevitably gives rise to a desire to 
embrace a maximum number of events in the work 
of art and consequently to expand it over a maximum 
embrace of time and space. 

To contrive the increase in the work of art of the 
space-time embrace of reality, each art form has its 
own specific methods deriving from its own specific 
material technique. In the theatre, for example, 
the principal means of attaining this end is the 
splitting-up of the performance into separate acts 
and scenes. A one-act performance of two persons 
engaged in dialogue and lasting without interval 
for an hour embraces exactly that, an hour's con- 
versation between two persons stationary in one 
place — and no more. To embrace a bigger slice 
of time we split the act into two scenes. The first 
can be played as springtime in Berlin, the second as 
summer in Moscow. Such a division of an act into 


parts gives us the possibility of embracing not only 
bigger time, but also bigger space. 

In his productions of classical plays, Meyerhold 
tries to imbue them with a contemporary content, 
and consequently is perpetually overflowing the 
limited framework which, in the classics, holds the 
action within a unity of time and space. In order 
to create in the audience, by means of the show, 
the necessary feeling of the dialectical complexity 
of the event, Meyerhold expands each act by tech- 
nical stage devices that have the object of theatrically 
expressing the new content which the modern 
spectator, and the artist in concert with him, per- 
ceives in reality. 

Thus in his productions Meyerhold splits the act 
not only into scenes but into many episodes within 
scenes. An interesting example is his production of 
Ostrovski's The Forest, in which, by means of this 
splitting, he literally guides his two actors through- 
out a whole province without them leaving the stage. 

But development along this line, while remaining 
at the same time conditioned by the material 
limitations of stage technique, inevitably comes to a 
dead end fixed by an insoluble and purely material 
contradiction. It is impossible to conceive a stage 
performance cut up into one- and two-minute bits. 
Such a performance would presuppose entirely new 
engineering inventions enabling scenic changes at 
the speed of lightning, enabling the spectator to 
transfer his attention from one point of stage space 
to the other with the speed of the successive bits. 


In his production ofRazbeg, 1 Okhlopkov makes an 
attempt to scatter separate tiny scenes throughout 
the whole space of the auditorium, so that to follow 
the change of episode, the spectator is obliged to 
turn his head right, left, up, sometimes even straight 
behind him. Of course, if a mechanically perfect 
seat could be devised that would save the spectator 
the unnecessary exhaustion (and the crick in his 
neck) caused by the movements imposed on him, the 
problem might be said to have been by this means 
resolved in his favour. But is it worth while invent- 
ing such seats, when the technical basis of the cinema 
solves precisely this problem with the utmost ease ? 

In the hoary days of cinema, when the style was 
more ultra-theatrical than ever since, and it had not 
yet occurred to anyone that the film could be any- 
thing but a simple photograph of a staged play, 
even then, the cinema used scenes each of which was 
no longer than 5 minutes long. In other words, 
the longest scenes of the film at its birth were equal 
to the shortest scenes of the stage at its most modern. 

The possibility of lightning-like change of action, 
also, was inherent and realised in the most infantile 
days of cinema. The possibility of almost infinite 
wideness of embrace both in space and time was 
already appreciated and realised in the very first 
works by serious masters of film art. 

The splitting-up of the stage performance into 

1 Impetus, a play from the novel of the same name on colkhoz 
life by V. Stavski, produced at the Krasnaya Presnya Theatre in 
Moscow.— Note by V. I. P. 


pieces, a natural development of theatre accentuated 
in these days by the present eagerness to embrace 
wider space-time fragments of comprehensible 
reality, reaches, at a certain stage of its development, 
a point of standstill on the stage and, at the same time, 
a starting-point in the cinema. The 3-minute bit 
that is an unthinkable high limit of speed for a scene 
change in the theatre is, in the cinema, the last limit 
of slowness. 

What is the new material-technical base which 
eliminates from the cinema this second contradiction, 
shown above to be an obstacle implicit in theatrical 
development ? In the main this new technique is 
enabled by two instruments. First, a movable 
photographing apparatus, that serves in some sort 
as a technically perfected spectator's eye. This eye 
can retreat from its object to any distance in order 
to embrace the widest possible spacial field of vision. 
It can approach the tiniest detail in order to con- 
centrate upon it the whole attention. It can jump 
from one point in space to another, and the sum 
total of all these movements requires, to all intents 
and purposes, no physical exertion on the part of 
the spectator. Second, a microphone, almost as 
readily movable and representing an attentive ear, 
capable of apprehending every sound without strain, 
be it the barely audible whisper of man or the roar 
of powerful sirens made faint by distance. 

The purpose of this study is to define the main 
respects in which this new material-technical basis 
affects the work of one of the most important 

O "c 

V ^> 

S w 

u m 

~ O 



members of the creative ensemble in cinema or in 
theatre — the actor. 

It would, of course, be wrong to assume that the 
new technique affects the actor's work only by 
lightening it, in that it removes the necessity for him 
to overcome a whole series of specific theatrical con- 
tradictions (such as the intensification of voice-tone 
and exaggeration of gesture needed to overcome the 
space separating actor from spectator in a large 
building, as mentioned above). 

The new material-technical basis of the cinema not 
only affects the actor's work by lightening it in cer- 
tain respects, it also imports many difficulties not 
present in stage work, or present there in milder and 
more tractable form. 

Before discussing the specific work of the film actor 
it will be best first to consider those aspects of the 
actor's work common to both film and stage, and 
therefore inescapable in either. 


The fundamental of the actor's job, both in film and 
on the stage, is the creation of a whole and lifelike 
image. From the very start of his work the actor 
has to set out to grasp and ultimately embody this 
image, shaping himself in the course of stage 
rehearsal or, in the cinema, in the so-called ' prepar- 
atory work.' 

Both in stage and screen work the actor has to 
embody the image in its deepest sense, ideologically 
and teleologically. But this task is not only con- 
ditioned objectively, it is also conditioned, of course, 

The image that has to be worked out is con- 
ditioned not only by the intention of the play as a 
whole, but also by the nature of the actor's self, it is 
related to himself as an individual personality. Any 
problem involving modification of his personality, 
however one may regard it, is obviously per se 
indissolubly linked with the continuous actual 
existence of the actor as a live individual, with all the 
elements of character and culture contributing to 
his formation. The relation between the proposed 
image and the actor as a live person is particularly 
strong at the beginning of his work. For this is the 
period at which emphasis lies on the element of his 


emotional attitude to the image, his so-called 
' feeling ' of some aspect of the image that particu- 
larly excites him and thereby serves as the essential 
point of departure of his work on it. Only later 
does the actor proceed to the task of thoroughly 
understanding and grasping the play as a whole, 
appreciating its ideological content. Then his 
work widens and becomes the solution of the most 
generalised problems of the play. 

The work of the actor on the image is thus 
oriented two ways. The image the actor builds as 
his work develops, on the one hand is constructed 
out of himself as a person with given individual 
characteristics, and on the other is conditioned by 
the interaction of this personal element and the 
intention in general of the play. 

The final object of the actor and his performance 
is to convey to the spectator a real person, or at 
least a person who could conceivably exist in reality. 
But at the same time, all the while he is creating this 
image, the actor none the less remains a live, 
organically whole self. When he walks on the stage, 
nothing within him is destroyed. If he be a nice 
man acting a villain, he still remains a nice man 
acting a villain. Hence the creation of the image 
must be effected not by mere mechanical portrayal 
of qualities alien to him, but by the subjugation 
and adaptation of the qualities innate in him. 

An image of the necessary reality will only be 
achieved when the given series of expressions, both 
internal and external, required by the play is 


expressed not by a set of words, gestures, and inton- 
ations dictated by formula or whimsy and mechani- 
cally repeated, but as result of the subjugation and 
re-expression of the actor's own living individuality. 
This manner of constructing a role will give it an 
organic unity that it will never receive if it be 
arbitrarily separated from the living organic unity 
of the actor as a person. 

The duality of the creative process in the actor's 
creation of the image is only an aspect of the duality 
or dialectic of every process of comprehension of 
reality, indeed every practical getting-to-grips-with-it 
by man with any phenomenon. In political work, 
for example, which is creative in the sense in which 
is the fulfilment of every task, there is the dialectic 
of the conflict and unity of theory and practice. 
Theory is checked by practice, practice generalised 
by theory, and only as resolved resultant of these 
conflicts does work proceed correctly. The emo- 
tional side and the logical side represent the duality 
in an actor's work of creating an image. If his 
construction is to have the organic unity of life, 
logic of synthesis must be informed by personal 
emotional excitement, and, correspondingly, emo- 
tional urgings must be based upon and checked in 
the light of the logic of the play. This consideration 
immediately exposes the limitations, both in theatre 
and in cinema, of the often recommended naif and 
natural c type.' 

The idea that the alpha and omega of acting can 
be expressed by a ' type ' is based upon the regarding 


of acting as a sort of mechanical process capable of 
being disintegrated into separate and quite un- 
connected bits. It ignores the fact that the actor 
does, in fact, exist as a live person, if a type, then a 
person unconscious of the inner meaning of his work, 
and thus, to say the least, unable to further the 
creation on stage or screen of the unification and 
wholeness necessary for living verisimilitude of 

Here let us reaffirm our principal desideratum for 
acting both on stage and screen. The aim and object 
of the technique of the actor is his struggle for unity, for an 
organic wholeness in the lifelike image he creates. 

But the technical conditions of work on the stage 
and for the screen impose a number of demands on 
the actor that perpetually tend to destroy his unity 
and continuity in the role. 

The splitting-up of the performance on the stage 
into acts, scenes, episodes, the still more subdivided 
splitting-up of the actor's work in the shooting of a 
film, set up a corresponding series of obstacles 
through and over which the entire creative collective 
(actor-producer in the theatre, actor-director- 
cameraman-etc. in the film) must combine to carry 
the organic unity of line of the actor's image. 

This unavoidable technical split-up of his work is 
immediately in direct contradiction with the actor's 
need to preserve himself in his acting whole and un- 
divided. In both play and film, this contradiction 
always obtains. In actual performance, the actor 
plays in bits. Between two entries, between two 


performances, though not playing, his existence is 

Bad actors and bad theoreticians get round this 
contradiction between the mechanical splitting dic- 
tated by the conditions of performance and the need 
for the actor to strive to live uninterruptedly in the 
image by maintaining that the gestures and words 
necessary for the part can simply be mechanically 
memorised, and thus suspended, as it were, over the 

Where one regards the actor as a c type ' who only 
mechanically repeats externally dictated gestures, 
the intervals between the separate bits of acting do, 
it is true, look like vacua that do not need to be filled 
with living material linking up the part as a whole 
on and off the stage, not only during a performance 
or shooting, but also during rehearsal. 

This superficial attitude to the actor's work is 
especially prevalent in the cinema. But, actually, 
the discontinuity of the actor's work must never be ignored, 
but always treated as a difficulty to be overcome. Let it be 
admitted that splitting-up into bits is less serious on 
the stage than in the cinema. The technical con- 
ditions of stage work allow the bits of continued 
existence in the given image to be longer. And there 
is a whole series of methods in the work of the stage 
actor's study of the image designed to the end of 
bringing about a maximum of linkage of the separate 
bits of the role into one whole within the actor him- 
self. First and foremost of theatrical methods for 
this purpose is rehearsal. During rehearsal the 


stage actor does not limit himself by the hard-and- 
fast conditions imposed by the text of the play. 
Stanislavski makes his actors in rehearsal act not 
only their parts as they stand in the play, but 
supplementary action not, in fact, in the text, but 
necessary to enable the actor completely to ' feel ■ 
himself into his part. 

Rehearsal work of this kind enables the actor to 
feel himself an organic unity moving freely in all 
directions within the frame of the image planned. 
Essentially, it is precisely this work that links the separate 
bits of his acting to the feeling, however discontinuous in 
fact, of a unified, continuous real image. 

Rehearsal work of this kind is precisely the oppor- 
tunity for the actor to transform the abstract thought 
and general line of expression that he has hit on to 
express the image into concrete acts and manners of 

If the actor remain only at the c thinking ' stage 
of his creative work, even for a moment, then in 
respect to that moment he ceases to be an actor. 
If the actor decide that the person he is portraying 
might have killed a man between acts one and two, 
then he should not only include the murder as an 
abstract element of his treatment of the image in 
the second act, but he should, in fact, actually 
practise acting this murder non-existent in the play, 
so that he may inwardly feel not only the concept of 
the murder, but, as really as possible, all the potenti- 
alities of the murder and its influence on the charac- 
ter of the image. 


This sort of rehearsal work, designed to connect the 
complexity of the objectively planned image with 
the live and actual individuality of the actor and 
all its wealth of individual character and culture, 
might be termed the process of being absorbed into or 
embodying the role. 

Stanislavski in one of his essays speaks of the art of 
living an image and the art of presenting an image, 
distinguishing by these terms two kinds of acting, 
the first basing itself on inner impulse, the second 
on externalised theatrical forms. 

Stanislavski says: " While the art of living an 
image strives to feel the spirit of the role every time 
and at each creation, the art of presenting an image 
strives only once to live the role, privately, to show 
it once and then to substitute an externalised form 
expressing its spiritual essence: the hack actor dis- 
regards the living of the role and endeavours to 
work out once and for all a ready-made form of 
expression of feeling, a stage interpretation for every 
possible role and possible tendency in art. In other 
words, for the art of living representation, living the 
role is indispensable. The hack manages without it 
and indulges in it only occasionally." 

This is, in effect, what we have said, using for the 
word ' living ' the term ' absorption ' or ' embodi- 
ment, 5 since it is specifically that process of setting 
up a profound linkage between the subjective per- 
sonal element of the actor and the objective element 
of the play. If the image be properly constructed, 
then this linkage has been set up. It is a linkage 

Rogulina, then first-year student at the G.I.K. (State 
Institute of Cinematography, Moscow), as Masha, wife 

of the Red Army Commander. 
V " Simple Case," Pudovkin. 


that, as Stanislavski says, is present in the work of 
every good actor, absent from that of the hack, 
whom Stanislavski rightly regards as better vanished 
from the stage. 

One may agree or disagree with the necessity for 
living the role in the complex and meticulous sense 
of the Moscow Art Theatre school of actors, but in 
any circumstances the organic relation between the 
actor's individuality and every live element in the 
image he plays is indispensable. 

This relation is a precondition for any verisimili- 
tude in the image. Naturally, all that has been said 
of the organic continuity and unity of the role 
applies equally to the organic continuity and unity 
of the performance as a whole. Stanislavski's basic 
postulate of the necessity for an actor to discover 
c intermediate action ' remains in force. 

It should here be noted that the process of personal 
identification with an objectively planned image is 
necessary not only in film and stage work. I 
suggest that a concrete feeling of connection between 
the individuality and the image to be created is 
normal and essential for the creative process in 
every art. 

There is a body of instructive evidence about their 
work from writers, who describe how, frequently, 
they mouth the words of the characters they are in- 
venting in order to test by concrete, personal sensa- 
tion the phrases, words, and intonations they are 

We recall that Gogol declared all the characters 


in Dead Souls to be, in fact, dark sides of his own 
nature that he wished, by expression, to annihilate 
in himself. 

The system of rehearsal is the special means the 
theatre takes to aid the actor in his struggle to 
incarnate himself in his role. 


All that has been said hitherto of the paramount 
importance and necessity of the actor's striving for 
wholeness in his image in the theatre applies, of 
course, with equal force to the work of the film actor. 
It might, indeed, be said that realism, that is, by 
implication, the lifelike unity of the im&ge, is a 
problem more pertinent and urgent to the film actor 
than even to the actor in the theatre. It is character- 
istic of the stage that effective performance is, as a 
matter of fact, possible upon it on a basis of exag- 
geration of theatrical convention, performance 
having an abstractly aesthetic character maximally 
removed from direct reflection of reality, but the 
cinema is characteristically the art that gives the 
utmost possibility of approach to realistic reproduction 
of reality. 

I emphasise here as elsewhere the word c possi- 
bility.' This is in order that the reader shall not 
think our analyses of possibilities, or our recom- 
mendations, the attempt to fix a static complex of 
methods as sole law of expression for cinema once and 
for all. Certainly the cinema too is capable of 
production in conventionalised style, style abstracted 
from direct representation of reality; certainly the 
cinema also is capable of generalisation, can develop 

1 31 


it to any degree, even to the limit of the supreme 
antithesis black and white. But none the less, the 
cinema is par excellence the art form capable of 
maximum capture of living reality in direct repre- 

The question of the degree of generalisation to be 
employed in any given specific instance in an art 
form — this is always a question of the sense of pro- 
portion of the skilful creative artist, and the measure 
of its Tightness is ultimately the reaction felt by the 
spectator when the work of art is complete : either 
acceptance by the experience of a real emotion — 
always the highest valuation for a work of art — or 
else cold negation. 

But in discussing possibilities, I endeavour to 
determine the general tendency of development of 
the specific given art form, which, after all, the 
creative artist must take into account, however 
personal his own solution. 

In the cinema, exactly as in the theatre, we 
immediately come right up against the problem 
posed by the discontinuity of the actor's work being 
in direct contradiction with his need for a continu- 
ous creative ' living-into ' and embodiment of the 
image played. 

Owing to the special methods used in filming, 
which we shall discuss later, this contradiction 
becomes in practice even more acute than in the 
theatre. If we assemble some of the stories that 
stage actors have to tell about their experiences on 
occasional film work, we shall find a whole host of 










"3 ^ 

O u 

+j u 
c o 

CO ^ 














denunciations, protests, even indignant swear words, 
all inspired by the notorious and fantastically 
exaggerated discontinuity of the film actor's job. 

Actors maintain that either they have to portray 
the image they play in extremely abstract manner, 
limited as they are in study to a superficial reading 
of the scenario, or, alternatively, they deliver them- 
selves bound into the hands of the director and his 
assistants, becoming will-less automata, executing in 
obedience to a series of shouts and orders a mechani- 
cal task the purport of which is incomprehensible to 
them. Actors further hold that they lose every 
possibility of feeling the unity of the image, every 
possibility of preserving during the process of 
shooting a sense of live continuous individuality, 
owing to the fact that they act the end of their role 
to-day, the beginning to-morrow, and the middle 
the day after. The various bits are tangled, they 
are terribly short; from time to time somebody 
photographs a glance that relates to something the 
actor will be doing a month hence when somebody 
else has photographed a hand movement that has 
to do with the glance. The image created by the 
actor is split into minutest particles, only later to be 
gathered together, and, horribile dictu, this gathering 
is effected not by him but by the director, who, in the 
majority of cases, does not allow the actor to come 
anywhere near to or observe the process or even 
have the remotest connection with it. Such, on 
general lines, is the protest of the stage actor who has 
done work for the cinema. 


But is it really true that the cinema, owing to its 
technical peculiarities, so inflexibly dictates an 
inevitable elimination of all possibility of the actor 
concretely feeling the wholeness of his role ? Is it 
really inevitably necessary to make the actor work in 
such conditions, which, as creative artist, he is 
unable to accept ? Of course not. We must 
recognise that the system of work with the actor 
hitherto in vogue with the majority of considerable 
directors is not only not perfect, but plainly and 
simply wrong. And it is our task to discover lines 
along which, just as in theatre (and we have already 
seen that discontinuity exists also ip stage acting, 
but to a lesser degree), the actor can be furnished 
with working conditions enabling him to effect the 
essential process of living-into his role. 

Let us state here in set terms that, however the 
solution be found, it will not be by avoidance of 
splitting up the acting of the actor during the pro- 
cess of shooting itself; for from this we not only shall 
not escape, but, in fact, must not escape if we are 
properly to appreciate the essence of the path along 
which the cinema's main development lies. We 
must not avoid this splitting up, but simply seek 
and find corresponding technical methods to aid the 
actor in struggling against and overcoming it, 
thereby re-establishing for him the possibility of 
internally creating and preserving a feeling of the 
sum total of the separate fragments of acting as a 
single image, organically livened by himself. The 
theatre helps the actor by development and particu- 


larisation of the method of rehearsal. We in the 
cinema must find means of following the same 

First for a moment let us understand whence 
derives this distorted degree of splitting up we have 
just admitted as characteristic for cinema. The 
discovery and establishment of the need to split up 
the actor's acting into editing pieces derives imme- 
diately from the methods, technical in the narrowest 
sense, found appropriate by directors and from the 
making of films as such. From the earliest moment 
of appearance of the cinema, those who most pro- 
foundly and seriously adopted it, whether con- 
sciously or otherwise, as an art form capable of 
development on independent lines were directors, 
and accordingly it is natural that the most important 
works first achieved in cinema were attained under 
the aegis of marked directorial control. 

The directors sought, and indeed found, in 
cinema specific potentialities enabling them, by its 
means and its means alone, to exert an impression 
on the spectators not only powerful, but in certain 
instances more powerful than that which could have 
been achieved in any other medium. 

It is the directors who discovered those special 
forms of composition for the at first wholly visual, 
subsequently compound (partly sound) images of 
film termed montage or constructive editing. Rhyth- 
mic composition of pieces of celluloid introduced the 
element of rhythmic composition indispensable for 
impression in any art. In providing the indispens- 


able basis for making the cinema an art at all, it at 
the same time made it an especially notable one, for 
it enabled also a wealth of embrace of the actual 
world impossible to any other art save perhaps 

The perception and realisation of the camera- 
microphone combination as an observer ideally 
mobile in space and time not only gave straightway 
to the film an epic sweep, it not unnaturally tended 
to distract the director and scenarist associated with 
him from proper recollection of the importance of 
bearing constantly in mind that a living human 
individual is an individuality of at least a given 
profundity and complexity of its own. The possi- 
bility of swinging the focus of attention of the tech- 
nical recording apparatus to a boundless number of 
different points of interest, their combination in the 
cutting process, the possibility of eliminating action 
from a film at given intervals, as though contracting 
or expanding time itself, all these possibilities led to 
results that placed the cinema pre-eminent among 
the arts in its capacity for breadth of comprehension 
of material of the real world. At the same time, 
however, the distracting process of exploring these 
possibilities led directors at a given stage in the 
development of film to a point at which they began 
to use the living man, the actor, merely as one 
component in the film, side by side with and 
equivalent to other components, material of equal 
and undifferentiated value, ready to take its turn 
and place and submit as inanimately to editorial 


Tchuvelev, actor, as a peasant boy. 
' End of St. Petersburg," Pudovkin. 


composition in the closing stages of the creative 
work on the film. 

The actor became, so to say, shuffled, sorted out, 
used, in effect, like an aeroplane, a motor-car, or a 
tree. Directors, in searching for the right methods 
of constructing a performance cinematographically, 
missed realising that to get fullest value in a per- 
formance, cinematographic or otherwise, by a living 
being, that living person must not only not be 
eliminated in the process, must not only be preserved, 
but must be brought out; and if this bringing out 
be not realistic, that is, not unified and alive, in the 
end the man in the film will be a great deal more 
lifeless than the aeroplane and the motor-car (which, 
it must be confessed, is precisely what has happened 
in the work of some of our directors). With the 
actor used as a machine, in a mechanical way, 
became associated a whole flood of theoretical out- 
pourings based on a mechanical extension of the 
editorial methods of alternation in length of pieces 
in cutting into a methodology for the actor's work 
on the floor. These technical outpourings could, 
in fact, only unfairly be dignified with the name of 
theory, inasmuch as they were only justifications of 
an empiria based on experiments concerned with 
something quite different, the main problems of 
editorial composition in film. 

Their trend, however, was roughly as follows. 
On the screen we have long-shots and close-ups. 
Therefore the actor mus| exactly adapt his behaviour 
in front of the camera to the requirements of these 


various camera-angles. On the screen there exists 
an undoubted interaction of effect between two 
adjacent pieces of film, an interaction which obtains 
though the content of the first piece be acting by an 
actor and that of the second any phenomenon the 
director or scenarist may require, taking place at 
any point of space whatever, however far removed 
from the actor in actual fact. Therefore the actor 
must be able to act his short piece without beginning 
or end and in absence of that which eventually will 
influence the content of his acting by interaction 
with it on the screen. 

On the screen we can move the actor in the action 
with lightning speed from any one point in time or 
space to another, which we cannot do in the actual 
shooting on the floor. Therefore the actor must be 
able to act separate bits separated from one another 
by any time interval and trust their combination 
entirely and solely to the director, the only person 
guided by fore-perception of the film in its already 
completed state. 

This is the way in which some have imagined 
the sum total of technical activity demanded of 
the actor. This mechanical understanding lacks 
all appreciation of the main fact, which is that the 
creative process of the actor is and must remain 
the fight for the feeling of the living substance of that 
image any component separate action in the make- 
up of which, however far removed from its fellow, 
will none the less be connected with it within the 
actor. And, further, that the technique of this 


process can and must be no more and no less than 
the methods of this fight. No help has ever been 
afforded the actor in this direction, and consequently, 
truth to tell, the technique of acting in the cinema 
has remained at a low level. 

I must emphasise yet again that, in speaking of 
the unity of the image and divining a technique to 
help the actor to achieve it, I in no way renounce or 
repudiate the indispensability of making separate, 
relatively short pieces in the process of shooting. 
There is a tendency afoot to help the actor by trans- 
forming his work to longer pieces and longer shots. 
This tendency is really nothing but a step along the 
line of least resistance, squeezing back into the 
cinema by contraband route the specialities and 
technique of the stage. This tendency is one that 
ignores, or deliberately turns its back upon, precisely 
those potentialities of the cinema that have set it in 
a place distinct and apart from the other arts, a 
place, as I have already said, earned directly by the 
multitude, and therefore shortness, of the pieces 
composing a film. This path is open to anyone. 
The film Groza x must, from this point of view, be 
considered as definitely reactionary. At the same 
time it undoubtedly has an important instructive 
lesson for us, as it is one of the first in our cinema 
that has given the actor a chance to feel himself a 
live human being in the process of his acting on the 

Of course, it is not this road leading to the mere 

1 The Tempest , directed by Petrov, from the play by Ostrovsky. — Tr. 


bounding of cinematograph performance by stage 
limits of time and space that is the right road for the 
cinema. We must give battle on that general front 
that includes the uttermost wealth of possibilities 
the cinema can give, and whereon, as is the 
natural course, we shall consequently encounter the 
maximum number of obstacles. 


The aim of the theatre, as of any other art form, is, 
let us repeat the definition, the collective compre- 
hension and modification of reality by its reflection 
in the work of art. The only basic weapon in the 
arsenal of methods the theatre has at its disposal for 
carrying out this process is the actor's dialogue. 
That embrace of reality to the maximum degree 
which is the aim and purpose of the artist is, in the 
theatre, fundamentally possible only by means of the 
actor, the human being, by means of his gesture, 
his speech, and his linkage to other persons in dia- 

It is true that, in the performance on the stage, 
apart from the human individual, the material 
shaping of the action also plays a part in the direct 
representation to the spectator of the reality outside 
the actor. But none the less, the theatre is of such 
a character that the primary basis conveying the 
content of the performance is the speaking human 
being, i.e. the actor linked to other actors by dia- 

The representation of the reality outside the actor 
in the theatre is exceedingly limited by its technique. 
There are certain instances in which the material 
part of the performance, the background, is 



given prominence. But when the theatre chooses 
this line, it rapidly exhausts its possibilities of 
development. In general the portrayal of wide and 
varied events environmental to any given element of 
human activity is possible only by their description 
in the text; that is to say, once more and again by 
human speech spoken on the stage, that is, by the 

The direct portrayal of events organically con- 
nected in content with the action but separated 
from it in space or time can, in the long run, only be 
rendered on the stage by their narration. Messen- 
gers, or a compere, are typical theatrical devices 
often introduced for the purpose. 

The world of reality, grasped by the artist in his 
creative act of comprehending it, in the main can 
penetrate the theatre only through the actor, his 
voice, his gesture, his movements, his behaviour. 
This is the characteristic of the theatre. 

The cinema is different. That which on the stage 
can only be narrated, on the screen can be directly 
represented. The special technical basis of the 
cinema, already discussed above, is to a remarkable 
degree capable of direct portrayal, direct trans- 
mission to the spectator of any event occurring in 

It might be argued that direct portrayal is neither 
necessary nor even specially desirable. In the 
process of generalisation essentially typical of every 
creative act, especially in art, one might renounce 
the direct representation of separate events dispersed 


in time and space and gather them into a generalising 
whole that the artist might situate anywhere in any 
single spot. No one can dispute the necessity for 
generalisation in the creative process. But its 
realisation to the extent of an idealistic compromise 
with facile and old-fashioned forms and rejection of 
new possibilities never heretofore available must, in 
my view, be regarded as essentially wrong and 

I once had occasion to talk to a playwright who 
frankly admitted that, when planning a play on 
aviation, he realised without doubt that material 
of such a nature would fall more clearly, expres- 
sively, and effectively into the form of a film. 

Here is a concrete example, a notable and signi- 
ficant phenomenon of our present-day reality, the 
world development of aviation, one which in con- 
siderable degree conditions a change and develop- 
ment in the psychology of mankind, and which in its 
full richness can be mastered and transmitted to the 
audience only by direct representation of events so 
far-reaching in scope and occurring in such dimen- 
sions that they cannot possibly be accommodated on 
the stage of a theatre. 

On the stage the actor will tell of a flight, in 
literature the author will add to the tale a descrip- 
tion of the circumstances exterior to the inward 
emotions of the person flying, but only the cinema 
can unite for the benefit of the spectator the direct 
and fullest sensation of both. 

A direct portrayal, for reasons sufficiently obvious, 


invariably exerts an especially strong and vivid 
impression. In strength of influence on the specta- 
tor, the theatre, owing to its directness of repre- 
sentation, even of its limited material, has hitherto 
held foremost place among the arts. If we take 
into consideration the capacity of the cinema 
directly to introduce material immeasurably richer 
than that which the theatre can ever hope to tackle, 
we perceive how, of its own nature, the cinema can 
approach or even transcend literature in its excep- 
tional power of impression. 

The cinema is in a sense a potential mirror, 
directly representing events in the wholeness of their 
dialectical complexity. In the wholeness of this 
reflection resides a profound force irresistibly drag- 
ging the spectator himself into participation in the 
creative process. The directness of representation 
of cinema material, even having regard to the ele- 
ment of generalisation inseparable from its comr 
position, forces the spectator to take himself an 
active part in comprehending it at the moment of its 

It is noteworthy that Lenin, with that striking 
simplicity and clarity in understanding the essence 
of things invariably characteristic of him, imme- 
diately determined the cinema as first and foremost 
a powerful means of the widest embrace and under- 
standing of reality and its transmission to the many- 
millioned masses — and this just on the basis of a 
chance report of purely technical character. 

I refer to the well-known programme for the 






















































cinema, in which Lenin emphasised the importance 
of the cinema's astonishing ability to portray the 
world, to acquaint broad peasant and working- 
class masses with the nature of other countries, and 
so forth. 

Our cinema, at least in so far as the work of its 
best directors is concerned, has developed and is 
developing principally in the direction of incor- 
porating in films the maximum possible wealth, in 
direct representation, of the variety of events of 
reality, sometimes indeed at the expense of the 
necessary degree of generalisation. 

This characteristic cannot, in my view, be re- 
garded as explicable simply as the outcome of the 
individual taste of the directors. We should, in my 
view, bear in mind the fact that the living reality 
around us is pushing forward under our noses with 
so manifold a growth that, more often than not, in 
grasping it and passing it on to the spectator, we 
have no time to pause and mould its complexity into 
the lijnits of a generalisation. 

Realise the multitude of dogmas that has been 
exploded and destroyed during the revolution. 
The fight, still continuing, against dogma, against 
the remnants of capitalist consciousness, often 
expresses itself in the offer by the artist, instead of a 
formula, of its living content, as though directly 
appealing to the spectator to co-operate by himself 
performing, in his act of comprehension, the neces- 
sary generalisation of the complexity presented to 


The point is illustrated by an example only in- 
directly related to our subject. That exceptionally 
gifted writer, Leo Tolstoy, who achieved a book, 
War and Peace, amazing in its vitality and in the end- 
less wealth of real and live material it contains, wrote 
as he grew older Resurrection, a book in which page 
after page, chapter after chapter, is full of generalisa- 
tions, dissertations, deductions, in which the persons 
move less and act less, in which the persons are 
themselves fewer and the space of action narrower. 
And this same Tolstoy towards the close of his life 
constantly wrote philosophical treatises devoid both 
of life and live characters. 

The above remarks on Tolstoy are not, of course, 
in any sense a valuation of the various stages of his 
art. I desired only to instance by this example the 
fact that whole and important works of art can be 
created in a creative tension deriving from a 
vigorous youthful perception of reality, without 
renouncing the widest direct portrayal of the 
innumerable separate elements of reality. 

The advancement of generalisation is, of course, 
one path of development, but it is none the less liable 
to grow into dogma; that is to say, at a given stage 
to cause a change over into senile decay, to change 
from an art capable of moving people to cold and 
dry sermonising. 

This is why, in pondering the various paths open 
to the cinema, I cannot but recall the achievement 
attained by Tolstoy's amazing genius in War and 
Peace, and reflect with alarm on the fate of that same 


genius of Tolstoy frozen stiff into the iceberg of 
idealist dogma. 

We must not be frightened by the wealth of 
material in our films. I have often come across 
rabid protagonists of the famous Chaplin film 
Woman of Paris. This film is certainly an example 
of the highest directorial and acting skill, but the 
trouble is that its partisans not only praise the film 
as an example of skill, but desire to elevate its 
methods into a pattern for the basis of film art. 
The film is staged in a deeply intimate manner. 
The action hardly even leaves the limits of a couple 
of rooms. The one solitary exterior that occurs in 
the film portrays a section of roadway on which the 
dramatis personae meet for the last time and separate 
on their respective ways. 

The painstaking attention of its author-director is 
concentrated on the minutest details of the small drama 
that unrolls in the intimate circle of its four or five 
characters. This is all very excellent and possible 
in its way and in no wise to be rejected by us. The 
film Groza {The Tempest) is very similar in its 
cinematic treatment to the Chaplin film. 

But it seems to me that this type of film is not 
merely unsuitable to many of our Soviet film 
writers, but in general is liable to distract the cinema 
from its specific, exceptional, and most effective 

For Chaplin all the wealth of events linked to- 
gether in the complicated life of human society was 
not necessary, because these phenomena have long 


ago been transmuted by bourgeois thought into a 
corresponding number of dead dogmas. Chaplin, 
living in a bourgeois milieu, easily detaches his world 
of four persons from the c rest/ because the c rest ' 
for him and for the audience to which he appeals 
is just a world of ready-made ideas fixed and not 
especially exciting. The universally accepted ideas 
and norms of a bourgeois audience represent a wall 
with which it screens itself from the perils of a 
developing society, and it is the bourgeois artist's 
job to preserve this wall intact. Contact with" the 
richness of the outer world must inevitably be 
alarming for the bourgeois artist. Whereas with our 
audience and our artists it is, of course, quite different. 

The organic link between the tense-strung com- 
plexity of our epoch and the character of the work 
of art in cinema is certain. And a striving towards 
maximum mastery of reality in content, the realisa- 
tion of the maximum possibility of direct repre- 
sentation of reality on the screen, just as certainly 
leads to the specific method characteristic of film art 
— montage or the editing together of numerous 
relatively short pieces. 

We must, further, mention here an additional 
specific potentiality of cinema which also inevitably 
entails the splitting up of the actor's work in the 
process of being shot. 

Imagine an actor delivering an emotional speech 
in a large auditorium. The listening crowd reacts 
to the words of the orator. It applauds, it interrupts 
with isolated calls and shouts. Suppose we desire 


Sovrotchin, actor, as a strike-breaker. 
" Mother," Pudovkin. 


to portray the crowd not as a thousand-headed 
faceless mass, but as a many-imaged unity, if we 
appreciate the fact that a mass is comprehended in 
its real content and significance only when are per- 
ceptible its component individual groups, and within 
these their component individuals. Then we shall 
be obliged to transfer the position of the camera 
rapidly from place to place, we shall be obliged, in 
the course of the oration, to change alternately from 
long shot embracing both orator and audience to 
separate closer shots, penetrating into the thick of 
the mass, and glimpsing a group or single listener 
reacting by shout or gesture. We shall inevitably 
have to split up the one speech of the orator into 
separate pieces, in order that they may be welded 
in the process of editing into a whole with the 
separate pieces of members of the audience reacting, 
and thereby derive unity from the multiplicity of 
many-imaged details. 

It might be argued that, for the purpose of an 
editing construction of this type, it is unnecessary 
to break the whole speech of the orator into separate 
pieces in the shooting. It might suffice to shoot the 
speech as a whole and subsequently to chop it on 
the cutting bench into the necessary separate pieces 
interleaved with the given auditor pieces. But film 
directors who strive to exploit the cinema's possi- 
bilities to the full cannot follow this course. They 
use not only words out of the orator's speech. 
Realise what tremendous importance in the con- 
struction of the whole image of man in action have 


his gestures and his pantomime connected with his 
utterances. This pantomime, at times of the most 
fine and complex order, plays a part no less import- 
ant than the intonation of the voice. 

Now, the culmination of the impression effected by 
an uttered word or sentence depends upon a move- 
ment of the hand; again, the closing of the eyes may 
add an unexpected touch of pathos to another word 
or phrase. Only the cinema, by virtue of the 
mobility of the camera, can so direct the excited 
attention of the audience that, at any given moment 
of his acting, the actor can, as it were, turn to the 
audience his most poignant, most expressive, side. 

And it is this method of shoving the play of the 
actor right up under the nose of the audience that 
inevitably necessitates the splitting of the single 
process of the speech into separate pieces in the 
actual shooting. 

At one moment we see the face of the orator with 
eyes tight shut. At another his whole body strain- 
ing with arms held high. For an instant we catch 
his glance directed straight at us. A nervous 
movement of his hand behind his back may also 
serve as a definite and colourful characterisation of 
some moment. 

Such material can only be obtained by shooting 
bits of the speech separately, with change of 
position of camera and microphone. Simultaneous 
shooting by several cameras at once, placed at 
separate points, will not give us an unhamperedly 
sharp and vivid editing treatment on the screen, 


because a camera placed for a close-up would be 
bound to get in the way of a camera taking a 
long-shot at the same time. Separate, interrupted 
shooting is indispensable. 

The question must be formulated simply in this 
way: should the immensely rich possibilities afforded 
by the cinema for the purpose of deepening the 
play of the actor be sacrificed to the natural desire 
of the actor to dwell in his acting image as wholly 
and uninterruptedly as possible, or should one search 
for means of helping him that none the less permit 
these possibilities to be maintained and exploited to 
maximum advantage ? 

The difficulty of solving this problem is, basically, 
the long and the short of the difficulty confronting 
the cinema actor, and the methods and ways of 
solving it are, in sum, the conditioning methods of 
his technique. 

We have already seen that this difficulty exists 
also in the theatre. The break between two stage 
entrances of an actor does not differ materially 
from the break between two shots in the cinema. 

The whole content of a stage play could, after all, 
take the form of a single continuous speech that one 
actor-speaker could utter without leaving the 
boards. In general, however, the theatre variegates 
its content, introducing action shared in by numer- 
ous dramatic personam, and portraying directly 
numerous deeds and events, not merely reporting 
them in speech. It splits the course of the play 
into acts, thereby eliminating chunks of time. 


The actor could, really, remain on the stage 
throughout the duration of a whole act without for a 
second being switched from the action, but the 
theatre as a rule insists on taking him off into the 
wings, because realistic enlargement of the action 
demands the introduction of new characters, and 
these new characters must not only push various 
old ones temporarily into the background, but even 
from time to time squeeze them from the orbit of 
the audience's attention altogether. Whereupon the 
first actor must stand in the wings waiting for the 
moment when the development of the play's action 
will once more drag him front stage. 

I repeat that this ' split-life,' this discontinuous 
animation, of the stage actor, does not differ 
organically from the € separate-shot-acting ' of the 
film actor in the course of the shooting of a film. 

The contradiction between the personality of the 
actor and his striving in the process of his acting to 
become a linked part of the whole circumstances 
environing the wide sweep of development of a 
realistic film, this contradiction, I repeat, exists 
not only in theatre and in cinema, but is analogous 
to the contradiction in creation general to all arts. 

And, we must affirm once more, the solution of 
this contradiction will be achieved not by its elimina- 
tion, but by proper understanding of the significance 
of the methods of acting technique, and consequently 
of the means legitimate to employ. 


r^ 1 


O a 









What are the basic methods the actor finds ? We 
have already seen that the theatre supports him in his 
fight for organic unity of the acting image by means 
of a detailed methodology of rehearsals. 

In these rehearsals, obedient to the will of the 
actors and producer, the stern temporal conditions 
limiting the players are for a space removed and sub- 
stituted by more unified and uninterrupted work 
aiding the actor to link, in whatsoever direction may 
be necessary, his live personality with the image he 

At rehearsals the actor, free from breaks in time 
or position, can link the separate pieces of his role 
into one whole, can concretely live into his image, 
checking it by a series of pieces of his role outside 
the play, but undoubtedly organically belonging to 
the image. In short, at rehearsals he can do all 
that work which will enable him later on to feel every 
separate piece of his role, however interrupted it 
may be mechanically in the course of the perform- 
ance, as his own, belonging to him, and if not 
uninterrupted in the sense of his physical presence 
on the stage, at least inwardly uninterrupted 
in the unity of his feeling and understanding of 
the role. 



What do we do in the cinema in the way of 
providing technical help to the actor in his difficult 
creative work ? It must be admitted that this 
assistance, where it is even given at all, is in most 
producing collectives of an exceedingly perfunctory 
character. Sometimes there are attempts at just a 
preliminary working-through the script with the 
actor by the director. The role is discussed, the 
role is, in fact, talked all round and about, so-called 
actor and director ' role-conferences ' take place. 
Something on the lines of so-called c round-table 
conferences ' in the theatre (work in the theatre pre- 
liminary to rehearsals) takes place in the cinema to 
a greater or lesser degree. But no practical pre- 
liminary work with the actor on the lines of linking 
the image found at the ' round-table conference ' 
with its outer expression, actually the basic starting- 
point of the work needed to transform an actor 
thinking about a role into an actor acting it, has 
ever been used as a normal course. 

In his preliminary work on the image the actor 
has, quite ridiculously and unnecessarily, been 
mechanically separated from practice, from the 
concrete work on himself as a live, connectedly and 
unitedly moving and speaking human being. The 
actor has approached the work of being shot, a 
process already requiring technically fixed and de- 
fined methods of execution, quite unaided, and able 
only academically to image to himself the general 
meaning of his role, in no way having linked it to 
his concrete live individuality. Such has been the 


position in the best cases; in the worst the actor 
purely and simply has not known anything about his 
role apart from the sum total of directorial instruc- 
tions restricted to each piece being shot. Naturally, 
each shot is proceeded by a sort of travesty of a 
rehearsal, but this cannot be considered seriously, 
for no antecedent work has ever been done upon it 
to give it an inner link to the unity of the actor's 

It is this incorrect attitude to the tasks of acting 
work that has given rise to the pseudo-theory of the 
montage (edited) image (a theory for which no single 
individual is responsible). This theory deduces, 
from the fact that an impression of acting can be 
composed mechanically by sticking pieces together, 
the illegitimate assumption that separate pieces, not 
connected inwardly within the actor, will neces- 
sarily give an optimum result. 

The true significance of the edited image is quite 
different; it has considerable importance for the 
cinema actor, and we shall speak of it later. 

Just as in the theatre, so in the cinema, the 
methodology of rehearsals is all-important for the 

In fact, as we have already observed, this method- 
ology is even more important in the cinema than in 
the theatre, since the hyper-discontinuity of acting 
work in shooting desiderates a correspondingly 
especially clear, definite, and detailed absorption by 
the actor of the wholeness of his role. 

Systematic rehearsal work in the cinema prior to 


shooting has so far been conducted only by way of 

I cannot speak of the work of the Experimental 
Film Collectives, as they have made no verbal or 
WTitten record of their experiences in this field. I 
shall discuss the experiment of Kuleshov in his film : 
The Great Consoler. 1 

Kuleshov wrote a shooting script, that is, a script 
worked out in technical detail as it is to be shot on 
the floor and edited afterwards. All tfre shots in 
this script, numbered and with their numerical 
order preserved, were transferred to a miniature 
studio floor. In fact, prior to the shooting of the 
film, he staged a performance consisting of very 
short scenes each in length identical with the piece 
later to be edited. As far as possible Kuleshov 
played each scene through on the studio floor in such 
a way that subsequently, after most careful rehearsal, 
it could be transferred back to and shot without 
alteration on the actual floor used in shooting. 

His rehearsal system attained three results. First, 
it achieved the preliminary work with the actor to 
the deepest possible degree. Second, it gave the 
executives the opportunity to c see ' the film, as it 
were, before it was shot, and make in time any 
correction or alteration that might be required. 
And third, it reduced to a minimum the waste of 
time during the preliminaries to each shot, which, 
as is well known, in general run away with a great 
deal of money. 

1 A film blended of O. Henry's life and Alias Jimmy Valentine, 


The combination of these results gave Kuleshov's 
work a somewhat peculiar style. First and foremost, 
in striving at all costs to make the rehearsal perform- 
ance an exact pattern of the future screen perform- 
ance, Kuleshov undoubtedly not only rehearsed 
his actors, but also to some extent adapted his film 
to a form more convenient and simple for the carry- 
ing out of the rehearsal. 

It is not a coincidence that Kuleshov's film con- 
tains few dramatis personae. It is not a coincidence 
that Kuleshov has no crowd scenes. It is not a 
coincidence that the extremely sparse and limited 
exteriors take the shape either of empty country 
roads or of city streets on which one never meets 
a soul save those few dramatis personae. 

Kuleshov, of course, wrote his script in this way, 
set the action in these scenes, chose this subject and 
this number of characters precisely to give himself 
the chance to fit the film rapidly and easily into the 
framework of a stage performance, one, moreover, 
of necessity played on a stage rather especially 
primitively fitted out. 

I do not think this work of Kuleshov should be 
treated as wrong in principle. The effort was un- 
doubtedly a most interesting experiment. The 
experiment was not wrong, but any mechanical 
deduction that might be made from it along the line 
of converting the method into a dogmatic recipe 
to be used in the shooting of any and every film 
would most undoubtedly be wrong. 

Our task remains, of course, the finding of such 


ways, such forms, and such methods of adjusting a 
rehearsal period as will in no wise handicap the 
film in the field of its exploration of every possible 
wide and rich development. 

We are still faced with the problem how to organ- 
ise preparatory rehearsal work on a film which 
definitely and markedly strives to develop along 
cinematic lines, that is, including a series of scenes 
embracing a large spacial canvas, locations, and 
circumstances such as cannot be reproduced on a 
rehearsal floor. 

We must not and cannot pander to a desire to 
play the future film through on a rehearsal floor to 
the extent of eliminating from it elements which, 
though they have no direct physical link with the 
actor in his acting, yet none the less contribute to 
the film the power and richness that make it a truly 
cinematic work of art. 

In my view the discovery of the correct methods 
for the rehearsal period will only be attained by 
keeping clearly and exclusively to our main purpose. 
This purpose is, of course, the actor's work on his 
acting image. All the rest, the demonstration of the 
whole film to the executives, the learning by rote of 
set-ups in advance (which latter is, in fact, never 
completely possible unless the film limits the canvas 
it shoots to the space within the studio walls), must 
be subordinated to the maximum fostering of con- 
ditions aiding the actor to solve his main technical 
problem — embodiment in the image. 

What, then, are the main postulates of the method- 


ology of the rehearsal period ? First let us consider 
the editing structure set out in the sheets of the 
shooting script. The sheets of the shooting script 
list a series of short pieces. Nearly every element of 
the actor's behaviour linked to the inner order of the 
action is interspersed with numerous pieces showing 
the audience either parallel action by other actors 
at quite a different location, or epically developed 
elements of events into which the actor is incor- 
porated by developments of the general action, or 

Suppose such a scene : a person in a room is talking 
to a man who excitedly awaits a meeting with his 
brother. The brother is expected by air. The 
excited wait is interrupted by the ring of a telephone 
bell. Information is given that the aeroplane is 
about to land. On the screen the action changes 
to an aerodrome where we see the plane landing and 
a sudden crash that causes the death of the brother 
arriving. The next piece to follow portrays the 
waiting brother receiving the terrible news. 

Should one in the rehearsal period strive to work 
out separately the two pieces of the state of the wait- 
ing man, separated as they will be on the screen by 
the conventionalised plane crash ? 

For work with the actor this would not only be 
unnecessary, but wrong and harmful. The only 
correct course is to rehearse both pieces in con- 
junction, thus enabling the actor to stay in the 
acting image without interruption, and to replace 
the specifically cinematic element of the portrayal 


of the crash by a single telephone call announcing 
the disaster. 

Suppose on the screen an actor, fleeing from pur- 
suit, swim a river, and meet on the opposite bank 
a man whom he was seeking in order to deliver to 
him some message, it would, of course, be futile and 
stupid to waste time and energy by staging an actual 
swim across a river during the rehearsal period. 
What is important for the actor during rehearsal 
is the presence somewhere in his role of a serious 
obstacle requiring to be successfully negotiated, and 
the inclusion of this sensation of recent victory over 
the obstacle in his feeling during his conversation 
with the person met beyond the river. In rehearsal 
conditions, any physical obstacle could serve as 
equivalent for the river, a window, for example, 
through which he might have to climb, or a door he 
might break down, before entering the room. 

I choose obvious examples of this kind in order 
to make clear the simple point that the separate 
shots (or editing pieces) of the shooting script, 
divided into its multitudinous incidents, an abun- 
dance of which cannot be reproduced on the stage, 
should properly be transmuted into some other form 
for the actor to facilitate his concentration in re- 
hearsal on the absorption of the unity of the acting 

This new form of script might be termed an 
- actor's script. 5 In an actor's script the separate 
pieces concerning him would be approximated to 
one another for the paramount purpose of preserving 

u si 

.15 -a 


•2 S 






for him as far as possible a longer duration and less 
interruption in his acting. The whole material of 
the director's editing or shooting script would be 
preserved. Only it would be rearranged in a new 
sequence, enabling nearer approximation of the 
shots in the actor's role, thus giving him larger 
pieces of united inner movement. 

Of course, such a linking up of the separate 
pieces in a role will in some cases entail the replace- 
ment of certain pieces by equivalents, as in the just 
instanced case of the telephone ring instead of the 
plane crash. 

The actual task of translating a shooting script 
into actor's scripts is certainly one which requires 
considerable practical experience for its proper 
performance. But its purpose is clear and simple. 

Stage practice, particularly the practice of the 
Stanislavski school in the matter of € interval ' or 
1 hiatus ' pieces in rehearsal alluded to by us before, 
can be particularly fruitful for film rehearsals. 

Kozintsev has stated that during rehearsal work 
with the actors on his latest film, The Youth of Maxim, 
he concentrated solely on those parts of the role 
outside the actual action of the film. 

The point of his observation is, once again, the 
fact that the main problem of director and actor 
invariably boils down to the establishment in re- 
hearsal of the inner unity of any given piece with the 
role as a whole. 

So as not to confuse the actor with theatrical 
conventions alien to the cinema, the director must 


surround him at rehearsal with real equivalents 
practical within the limits of a stage or rehearsal 
room. So as not to force the actor to waste energy 
in imagining such things as rivers that he will meet 
in the actual story, the director and actors in re- 
hearsal add equivalent pieces, enabling the inner 
content of the actor's behaviour to remain un- 
changed, the river he will have to swim being 
replaced by some analogous obstacle such as those I 
have already suggested. 

Let me once again emphasise the extreme danger 
of introducing into cinema rehearsal work specifically 
theatrical conventions unconnected with actual 
problems of shooting. 

Kuleshov's method of solving the rehearsal prob- 
lem by having the whole future film played over on 
the floor involves such a danger. 

I repeat once more, also with emphasis, that an 
* actor's script • such as I describe requires careful, 
meticulous, and profound modification to replace 
real-life conditions set out in the editing script with 
equivalent real conditions practicable for the re- 
hearsal stage. And this process can no doubt best 
be effected in actual concert with the actor. 

We should approach the problem wrongly if we 
excluded a priori from this process all possibility of 
creative work on the script by the actor himself. 

The beginning and end of the old system was its 
orientation around the reduction of the actor's work 
to an almost mechanical performance of a ' task ' 
allotted him by the director. We shall never escape 


from the old system of treating the actor as a prop, 
as a type, if we do not set the question of creative 
inter-influence of actor and director right at the fore- 
front of work on the film, already at the stage 
preceding shooting. 

Hitherto the actor, encountering only the com- 
plexly constructed shooting script of the director, 
able to envisage his own future work only abstractly, 
has been deprived of the possibility of determining 
clearly and concretely any possible disagreement he 
might have with the directorial conception of the 
part. I suggest that an ' acting script ' and re- 
hearsal work with it will provide that now missing 
concrete basis for a creative mutual influencing of 
actor and director. 

The director's will and effort are devoted to maxi- 
mal expression of the whole of the film, and his work 
on the editing or shooting script is oriented from this 
angle, exploiting in this script all the wealth of the 
specific methods provided him by the technique of 
the cinema. But subsequently he should compress 
the shots in this shooting script into an acting script. 
This new acting or rehearsal script would not merely 
represent the solution of the given shooting problems 
as set out in the shooting script, but also the concrete 
fulfilment of the requirements postulated by the 
actor's need for aid in maintaining unity and 
vividness in his image. From this script, in the 
process of rehearsal, new data would doubtless be 
forthcoming, justifying a second edition of the shoot- 
ing script, inevitably, quite properly and to creative 


advantage replacing the first. And only in this 
last form would the script actually go forward for 

This is a means, it seems to me, whereby might be 
achieved a real linking of the actor to the unity of 
the work of the whole shooting collective. 




3 Q 




We now come to the shaping of the editing image. 
This concept, the subject of the most acrimonious 
controversy, is in fact the crux of the novel and 
different nature of the cinema, distinguishing it 
from the theatre. 

When the stage actor works on his inward embodi- 
ment into the acting image, his work is bound inex- 
tricably with two tasks: firstly, the search for its 
external form of expression — voice, gesture, grimace 
— and secondly, the clear consideration of that 
general ideological tendency of his role that links his 
work with the performance as a whole and with each 
of its details separately. 

Let us analyse the first task. In working on his 
external expressiveness, the stage actor naturally 
moulds the whole process of his acting into a 
rhythmic form. His speech receives in delivery in- 
tonational emphasis or weakening according to 
whether he wishes at any given movement to seize 
and hold the audience by the c content * or the 
c emotional ' side of his speech. In his pattern of 
movements and gesture he also creates moments of 
rise and fall, of vividness and restraint, of strength 
and weakness. But an actor moving and speaking 
on the stage always remains at relatively the same 



constant distance from the spectators, in a position 
in space more or less constant in respect to them. 
For the spectators to see his hand, he must show it 
to them; for the spectators to see his face, he must turn 
it to them; for the spectators to hear his whisper, 
he must raise it to the level of loudness. 

The cinema has to create its analogous rhythm of 
externally expressive form in a different manner. I 
have already described how the camera and micro- 
phone can move to approach or recede from the 
actor, how they can espy the finest movements of his 
body, eavesdrop the most delicate intonations of 
his voice. By this means the acting of the actor, 
treated in long shot and in close shot, angled from 
various set-ups, is rendered especially vivid and 

If the stage actor, in the course of working out the 
maximum external expressiveness of his role, wish, 
at some given moment of the performance, to centre 
the whole attention of the audience on, let us sup- 
pose, his smile following the word ' No/ then he 
knows perfectly well that not only must his word be 
spoken well and his smile smiled well, but that the 
audience must listen to the word and watch the 
smile especially attentively. 

For this purpose, the actor uses in support of the 
stage delivery of his role all the complex mechanism 
of theatre technique. He can use sets, or composi- 
tion of the action in them, leading the attention of 
the audience away from his colleagues and fixing it, 
precisely at the crucial moment, on himself. He can 


use a pause immediately following, spotlights, con- 
centrating their light on him alone. 

In the cinema all this complicated system of 
methods can be reduced to a single close-up. The 
close-up in the cinema is an integral part of the 
rhythm of external expression of the actor. 

The editing of separate camera angles in the cinema is the 
more vivid and expressive equivalent of the technique that 
obliges a stage actor who has inwardly absorbed his acting 
image to ' theatricalise ' its outer form. 

The film actor must clearly understand that the 
moving of the camera from place to place is not 
simply a means of realising purely directorial 
methods. The understanding and feel of the possi- 
bilities of the shooting of shots from various angles 
must be organically included in the process of the 
actor's own work on the external shaping of his role. 

The film actor must feel the urge and the necessity 
for a given camera position for the shooting of any 
given piece of his role in precisely the same way as a 
stage actor feels the necessity, at a given point in the 
course of his role, for making an especially empha- 
sised gesture, or for advancing to the footlights, or for 
ascending two steps of a scenery stairs. 

The actor must appreciate that it is in this very 
movement of the camera that lies latent that essential 
sensitivity that removes work in the field of art from 
the sphere of shapeless naturalism. 

However profoundly the stage actor embodies him- 
self into his role in the course of his work on the 
image, he must not, and in fact does not, forget the 


need always to consider also the objective content 
and value of the final result — his behaviour in acting 
on the stage during the actual performance por- 
trayed to the audience. The image, however 
deeply absorbed by the actor, does not exist in the 
performance as a separate entity. Linked by the 
course of the action, it is subject to the complex 
interplay and mutual influence of all the forces 
comprising the performance as a whole. 

The supremely important social class significance 
of the actor's performance is determined by the per- 
formance as a whole. There is not an element in 
the performance, be it the acting of a colleague, or 
the material composition of a scene, but must be 
linked to the final form of the whole and therefore of 
the remaining parts. Even during the very first 
moments of work on the image, when the actor is 
mainly seeking and feeling for ways of embodying 
himself as a given individual in the image he intends 
to play, he is yet clearly conscious of and sets before 
himself as his aim the figure sketched out by the 
libretto of the play, wlxich figure eventually will move 
and speak upon the boards. He appreciates what 
the future stage image is and how it is embedded in 
the entirety of the performance. But on the stage 
the actor who sought and shaped the role yet re- 
mains in the finally discovered and shaped perform- 
ance a live person. The image he finally finds and 
fixes in himself and in the performance, he never 
separates from himself as from a living, feeling, and 
speaking person. 












































In the film it is quite otherwise. The culminating 
achievement of the actor's work — in the theatre the 
stage image — is in the cinema something of a quite 
different order. As final result appears the edited 
image — a screen image of the actor, recorded and 
fixed once and for all upon the film, a final and 
optimum version of his work's achievement, which, 
quite apart from any other distinction, has in the 
course of its expression been subjected to a technical 
finishing process quite impossible of application to a 
living being. 

Just as in the unity of the stage show the image of 
the actor is c produced ' in the fullness of its content 
by the complex interaction of all the forces comprised 
in the performance, so in the cinema the separate 
pieces of shot acting of the actor are moulded into a 
unified image the unity and orientation of which are 
determined not merely by the unity found by the 
actor within himself, but also by the exceedingly 
complex interaction of those many pieces containing 
alien phenomena, situated exterior to the actor. 

The most comprehensive, the profoundest lines 
determining the content of the image, are discern- 
ible, of course, only when the whole composition of 
the film is available. 

We have already noted that the wealth of events 
of the world of reality which the cinema can embrace 
is much wider than that accessible to the theatre. 
While the relationship between a given actor and 
the whole performance is on the stage determined 
principally in the conflict between the actor and his 


colleague, an actor using dialogue like himself, in the 
cinema the actor encounters not only man. In the 
completed film the acting actor is brought into rela- 
tionship with the whole tremendous complexity of 
objective reality, and in this respect therefore is 
placed in a position nearer to that of a part of a 
literary work than to that of a dramatis persona in a 

Thus the concept of the edited image by no means 
implies (as some have sought to declare) a negation 
of the necessity for unified work by the actor on his 
role. The concept of the edited image is by no 
means an affirmation of the doctrine that the film 
actor is merely a type actor providing piecemeal 
material for mechanical composition into a pseudo- 
whole in the process of editing. 

On the contrary, this concept, analogous to that 
of the stage image, demands from the film actor 
firstly a knowledge of how consciously to exploit the 
possibilities of vari-angled shooting for the purposes 
of his work on the external shaping of his role, and, 
secondly, clear consideration of its creative place in 
the edited composition of the whole film, in order 
that he may understand and bring out the most 
comprehensive and profound bases of his acting. 

In stage work there exists a clear and precise con- 
cept, the ensemble; in the creation of the ensemble 
participates not only the producer, but also each 
separate actor, building his work in direct connec- 
tion with the whole of the performance. In the 
cinema the equivalent concept has reached in its 


shaping almost the limit of technical precision. A 
film, a work the material of which includes the acting 
of actors, can attain, in the exactitude and precision 
of its rhythmic construction, the exactitude of the 
rhythmic construction of a musical composition. 
Hence the especial strictness and rigidity of the 
requirements to which film actors must subordinate 
their work in the course of its external shaping, those 
film actors, that is, who value not only their own 
roles, but the film as a whole. 

The stage actor knows well that an unhappily 
chosen or badly played tune preceding his speech 
can not only damage but distort the role he is trying 
to create. The film actor must understand that a 
piece of a landscape or some other phenomenon, 
either preceding or following the piece with his 
acting in it, will indubitably enter as a component 
into the line of his image as it will be apprehended 
by the audience watching the screen. 

The edited image is that final and definite form 
that enters into interaction with the third element 
comprising the work of art — the spectator. In dis- 
tinction from the stage image, it is divorced from the 
living actor, and for this very reason, in order not to 
lose realistic unity, must be conceived by the actor 
and thought out carefully from the very first stages 
of his work on himself and his role. 

While on the stage the actor can more exactly 
adjust his place in the whole during the actual course 
of the second performance to the audience, the film 
does not give him this opportunity. Further, the 


work of the actor in endeavouring to reach sharpest 
apprehension of the film as a whole is more complex 
and difficult. Therefore it must be regarded as 
particularly paradoxical that this side of his work, 
the study of his relation to the film as a whole, is far 
more deeply provided for in the theatre than in the 

Here we should mention still another difficulty 
characteristic of the work of the film actor. In the 
theatre exists the so-called c living link ' between an 
actor and his emotionalised audience. It is a well- 
known fact that performances of a show differ, and 
that this difference depends on and is caused by 
differences of audience composition. There exists an 
abundance of stories concerning notable actors and 
how the living reaction of audiences has forced them 
at various times to find new business for their roles, 
or to discard business they had previously found 
and used. 

All stage actors declare that they derive the real 
high-pressure tension and inspiration necessary for 
full value in their acting only from the feeling of 
the audience being moved. 

In the cinema we are in the presence of an entirely 
new phenomenon: never, not even during the most 
important moment of his acting, when the actor is 
face to face with the camera recording his final 
achievement, has he the chance to feel directly the 
reaction of a single spectator. He can imagine his 
spectator only as a future spectator. 

In the c living link * between actor and spectator 


should be distinguished two elements, which we shall 
analyse separately in their relation to the cinema. 

The two elements are these: first, the general 
excitement and inspiration felt by the stage actor 
aware of thousands of eyes centred upon him, con- 
scious of a thousand-fold concentration of attention 
upon his acting, and second, the presence of the 
living reaction of the audience, as it were itself 
taking part in the creative process of the develop- 
ment of the role, and thereby helping the actor. 

The first element, direct consciousness in the actor 
of the multiple spectator, is completely absent in the 
cinema. At the moment of shooting, the actor sees 
in front of him only the dumb mechanisms of the 
camera and sound-recording apparatus. The sys- 
tem used for lighting, which entails the surrounding 
of the actor with lamps, seems also as though deliber- 
ately engaged in isolating him into the space allotted 
for the taking of the scene, a space so small that 
sometimes the actor is even cut off from seeing the 
whole of the room in which the action takes place. 

But does it follow that the feeling of an audience 
and the creative excitement and inspiration deriving 
from the audience are thereby necessarily excluded 
from the work of the film actor ? I hold that it does 
not. True, this feeling of the audience can come 
into existence only in a new and peculiar manner. 

I remember a conversation with the now late 
V. V. Mayakovski. 1 He told me once about the 
feeling he experienced when, during the years of 

1 Committed suicide in 1932. — Tr. 


revolution, he declaimed his verses to an enormous 
crowd that had collected in front of the balcony of 
the building of the Moscow Soviet. 

V. V. complained that nowadays he never felt 
that tremendous inspiration he did then. Only in 
one circumstance, he said, do I feel the same excite- 
ment, if not an even greater than in those days, and 
that is when I make a speech on the wireless. 

I maintain that Mayakovski was completely and 
utterly sincere. It is interesting that to a man like 
him, who undoubtedly had organically lived and 
nourished his creative process on the reaction of the 
mass audience, the broadcasting studio did not feel 
like a solitary confinement cell isolating him from 
his listeners. That creative imagination which is 
part and parcel of every great artist, which makes 
him one with and related to all the world of reality, 
enabled him not only to appreciate intellectually, 
but to feel directly, that the words spoken into the 
microphone spread immediately over a gigantic 
area and became received by millions of attentive 

Let us be clear that Mayakovski was not referring 
to an intellectual understanding of the importance 
of wireless, but to a direct excitement and in- 
spiration caused in him by work before the micro- 
phone. Once more I repeat that Mayakovski likened 
this excitement to that which he had felt when 
directly before him he had seen listening a crowd 
thousands strong. 

I consider that for a film actor who really and truly 


lives in his art the possibility of such an excitement is 
not excluded. On the stage an actor plays before 
hundreds of persons, in the film actually before 
millions. Here is a dialectical instance of quantity 
increasing over the boundary into quality to give 
rise to a new kind of excitement, not less real and, 
of course, not less significant. 

Let us turn to the second element. The collabora- 
tion in creation on the part of the spectator, his living 
reaction to the acting, his acceptance and applause 
of the right and felicitous, his cold repudiation of 
anything mistaken — none of this, also, can be 
present in the taking of a film. 

Hence, I urge, upon the director, who is the one 
and only witness of the acting during the shooting of 
a film, reposes an especial responsibility, in no way 
corresponding to any equivalent in the theatre. The 
solitude of the actor during the taking of the scenes 
weighs upon him. The director, of course, if he 
desire to give the actor the maximum of help, if he 
wish to create for him the optimum conditions for 
free, easy, and sincere acting, can so react to the 
work of the actor as to become for him a fine, 
responsive, and friendly — if sole — spectator. 

I put forward this point in all seriousness, the pos- 
sibility for the director to make the actor believe in 
him not merely as a theoretician, as a thinker and 
mentor, but also as a directly affected, either 
admiring or disappointed, spectator. 

The finding of this inner contact between director 
and actor, the establishment of a profound mutual 


trust and respect, is one of the most paramountly 
important of all the problems in the technique of 
the work of a film collective. 

My own practice in working with actors, which I 
must confess myself quite unable up to date to 
codify into any coherent or unified form that might 
in any degree be called a system, is based entirely on 
this contention, that all the most important moments 
of an actor's work are based absolutely on this trust 
in me on the part of the actor. 

I recall how, taking full advantage of the silence 
of the cinema in the old days, I used literally to be 
unable to restrain myself from uttering words of 
excited praise that reached and encouraged the 
actor in the middle of his acting by reason of their 
obvious and complete sincerity. 

It is of interest to mention here that Baranovskaia 
in Mother categorically declared to me (we were then 
about half-way through the film) that she could not 
act unless I were in my accustomed place beside the 
camera. I cite this, declaration as further confirma- 
tion of the fact that the presence of the director re- 
sponsively reacting to the actor's acting is an organic 
necessity for the latter. I recall that I have invari- 
ably tried to establish the most intimate personal 
relationship possible with all the actors playing prin- 
cipal roles in my films before the actual work of 
shooting began. I have always regarded it as im- 
portant to win in advance the deep-seated trust of 
the acting ensemble, so that later the actors could 
fall back on this trust and not feel solitary. 

Baranovskaya, actress, as the mother. 
XIV " Mother," Pudovkin. 


Many speak of the inevitability of a duality in the 
actor during his acting, when with one side of him- 
self he lives and plays in the acting image, and with 
the other as though controls this play objectively. 
In my view this second, controlling side, is not at all 
a kind of imaginary spectator dwelling within the 
actor. This second side must, inevitably, be rooted 
in the living spectator existing external to the actor; 
it takes into account and bases itself on the former's 
reaction, fulfilling its essential purpose in doing so, 
for otherwise the actor would be locking himself 
within his own subjective circle and becoming a 
coldly abstract phantom. 

I believe that the coldness and externally mechani- 
cal formalisation of acting often encountered in the 
cinema can usually be explained by coldness and 
mechanical formalisation in the directors method of 
work with the actor in shooting. 

I emphasise that the decisive importance of the 
work of the director on the actor in shooting is 
characteristic for the cinema, and no equivalent 
obtains with anything like equal sharpness in the 

Let us note here, deriving from this, one more 
characteristic difference between stage and film 
technique in acting. 

In the theatre the actor must not only find the 
image, absorb it, approximate himself to the external 
forms of its expression, sense the necessary rhythmic 
forms of its playing and its link with the show as a 
whole, but he must during the repeated rehearsals 


fix all this and ' can ' it in a definite shape. Although 
it is not disputed that at each subsequent perform- 
ance the actor will continue in a degree to develop 
his role, yet the element of learning by rote, fixing, 
and c canning ' his acting is inevitably present in the 
theatre to a considerable degree, Thus the stage 
producer at a given point cedes his place to the 
spectator, and the show reaches its perfect form 
without, already, his direct participation. 

In the cinema the burden of the element of 
' canning ' and memorising is removed from the 
minds of actor and director by the mechanism of the 
visual and sound cameras and by the laboratory, 
which indefinitely multiplies copies from a single 
negative. In fact, until the very last, the culminat- 
ing moment of their joint creative work, the actor 
and the director in the cinema march in the liveliest 
and most direct contact. 


We now proceed to the next element in the film 
actor's work which offers special difficulties. This 
is the absence, occurring in certain circumstances, 
of the opposite number in a duologue. We can 
scarcely imagine an instance of an actor in the theatre 
being obliged to talk to an opposite number in reality 
absent. In the cinema this happens time and again 
owing to technical complications resulting from the 
desire to exploit the method of editing in construc- 
tion of dialogue. 

The stage, of course, is familiar with what is 
termed monologue, where the actor's direct opposite 
number in dialogue is the audience. But the 
cinema has a host of very different examples. 

To cite an obvious one, let us take the case of a 
scene in which an actor addresses a crowd of Mon- 
gols, responding to their reactions. Quite likely the 
actor's words would be recorded separately in 
Moscow and joined up with pieces of scenes taken 
in Siberia. 

Certainly it is possible to counter this example 
with arguments, valid to some extent, denying the 
necessity, at least in the normal course, for breaches 
of this kind in the living linkage of the protagonists 
of the general action. But I hold that such breaches, 



perhaps usually less crude and of less degree, are 
inescapable in cinema. Let us take as another 
case a continuous close-up incorporating several 
separate dialogue bits, and for which the actor, 
instead of the connected development of the 
dialogue, receives only the short opening cue. 

Granted that we remove all the technical difficul- 
ties deriving from faulty organisation of production, 
I think we must and shall be able to find means 
whereby, without losing a jot of the wealth of 
possible methods of editing treatment of dialogue, 
we shall yet be able to realise in practice a preserva- 
tion of the live link between the actor and his 
opposite even in such work. 

In the silent days it was easier. There one could 
build around an actor to be taken in close-up a 
background as complicated as might be wished and 
eliminate it in shooting by the angle from which 
the camera was trained upon the actor. 

In the sound film matters are more difficult. 
The microphone cannot set exact limits to its sensi- 
tivity. The microphone picks up all the sounds 
occurring around it up to a given strength and dis- 
tance away, consequently the actor can only be 
isolated in close-up by eliminating in actuality any 
and every sound not meant to be recorded in the 
given section of film. In the silent film one could 
remove everything superfluous for the finished film 
and needed only by the actor to help him in his 
playing, not only by means of the isolating frame of 
the lens in the given camera set-up, but also by use 

: . : ^v -; : :^. ; :-- r :t^i:, ' %\ ■ 


of the directorial scissors, which could snip off the 
introductory business needed by the actor to get into 
his stride for the given acting moment. At first 
glance it might seem that in sound cinema both 
these avenues are closed. Practice, however, has 
found ways round the difficulty. 

As a rule, the sound film can be taken just as freely 
as the silent, relying upon possible future alteration 
on the cutting bench of the material obtained. The 
words of an opposite number, the exhortations of the 
director, any and all noise accretions required by the 
actor for living intercourse with the human beings 
surrounding him in the process of shooting, can be 
removed by the scissors, always supposing there has 
been exact and correct organisation of the material 
during the taking of the scene. 

A piece which, edited on the screen, comprises 
only a short moment of the actor's acting can equally 
in sound film be shot as a longish piece of acting, 
only the culminating moment of which forms the 
piece used in editing construction. The beginning 
and end of the piece can be cut away by the 

Working out methods for this is simply a question 
of developing the practical side. This practical side 
must simply develop, guided always by common 
sense, along the line of maximum assistance to the 
actor in enabling him to stay as long and connectedly 
as possible in the acting image. The sound record 
on the film is, in general, as pliable a material as the 
picture film on which the image is recorded. This 


record can be cut and edited, more — on occasion 
must be cut and edited. 1 

Let us consider, for example, the pauses that sepa- 
rate from one another separate significant moments 
in the speech of one or several actors. Not always 
can these pauses be recorded in reality. Consider 
an instance we have already discussed. 

An orator is addressing a listening crowd. His 
words are interrupted by general hubbub, applause, 
individual shouts and yells. In taking such a scene, 
not even a director most set in stagy treatment of the 
cinema and most scornful of the paramountcy of 
editing would be content with only one long shot 
showing the scene as a whole, and not transfer the 
camera from the orator to various of the individual 
listeners reacting to his speech and back again. But 
with shooting in this way, in separate pieces, the 
pause that separates a completed sentence, or a part 
of a sentence left incomplete, on the part of the 
orator from the shout of listeners or the latter's 
applause would not be recorded. Inasmuch as the 
two pieces — orator and listener — have been shot 
separately, the length of the pause on the screen will 
depend not on its length in reality, but on the 

1 In most sound systems used in the West, a cut sound track results 
at its point of junction (in spite of sound-masking measures, such as 
the so-called blupe splice) in a definite if slight * plop.' A great deal 
of elimination of surplus sound, or combination on a single track of 
sounds recorded separately, is effected therefore not by cutting, but 
by what is called * re-recording.' In theory this does not affect 
Pudovkin's principle of possible pliability here enunciated, but in 
practice — owing to the fact that a new celluloid track is dearer than 
a scissors snip — it does affect the extent to which that pliability is 
in fact utilised. — Tr. 


amount of blank film the director inserts at the end 
of the orator's phrase and before that of the shouting 

From this example we see that in the process of 
filmic construction arises constantly the necessity to 
create in editing elements that enter integrally into 
the tissue of the live actor's acting. Later we shall 
see more clearly still how this very element, a pause, 
an element the tremendous importance of which is 
familiar to every stage actor, is inevitably dependent 
on the directorial scissors, that is, on the skill and 
instinct of the director. Here is a reason, one of 
many, for finding a way of making possible a direct 
participation by the actor even in the editing of 
the film. 

The work of editing, of cutting and joining to- 
gether the pieces of acted film, demands subtle effort 
of the utmost creative importance in the field of 
sensing the rhythm of dialogue. Theoretically, it is 
perfectly possible for the actor, in concert with the 
director, to set the final polish on the former's acting 
solely by manipulating his screen image and screen 
voice recorded on pieces of film. 

There is no reason why the work of the real actor 
should terminate before the editing process. The 
actor should take a direct creative part in it, he must 
clearly feel editing as the process of finally polishing 
the shape of things. 

I am so stubborn in emphasising the necessity for 
the actor thus to participate in the editing, because 
hitherto it has been a course in practice scarcely ever 


adopted, and in consequence has led to the preval- 
ence of a most incorrect idea of creative editing as a 
period during which the dictator-director mutilates 
and damages the living work of the actor in the 
interests of the ritual inventions of his directorial 

The actor should be as close to the editing as the 
director. He should feel that he can lean upon him 
at every stage of the work. Editing should be precious 
to him, as shaping of his performance into the ensemble is 
precious to the stage actor, and he should be similarly eager 
and anxious for its success and the final linkage of every 
element of his work into the whole. 

I wish to turn back for a moment to our discussion 
of the living link between actor and theatre audience. 

The reacting spectator will only correctly and pro- 
foundly apprehend the show when the producer and 
actor, by means of the exhaustive use of all the re- 
sources of their technique (using the term in its 
broadest sense), have succeeded in correctly guiding 
his attention. If the spectator for some reason or 
other at a given moment of the show look, not at the 
hero when the action hangs on the words of the hero, 
but at some secondary character walking about in 
the corner of the stage, the smooth crescendo of the 
action is bound to be broken. The spectator will 
receive an impression other than that intended by 
author, producer, and actor. 

The technique of the stage has the effect of guiding 
the awakened attention exclusively along a channel 
creatively planned and discovered as the optimum 

o -8 



s « 





form for portrayal of the material of the show. And 
each individual actor knows that, in the execution 
of his role, his stage technique must help him at the 
suitable moment to concentrate attention only on 
himself, at times even only on some detail of his 
acting, or, alternatively, to efface himself and thereby 
transfer the spectator's attention to a colleague. 

This process determines the rhythm of the show, 
that rhythm that is, in fact, the breath of life of any 
work of art, the rhythm that moves the audience and 
which, in actual fact, determines that excitation of 
the spectator without which no work of art can 
properly be regarded as such. 

The induction of the spectator into the rhythm of 
the show and the inducing of him to follow it con- 
stitute one of the most difficult problems of the 
theatre. In the cinema the technique of editing is 
brought in to help solve it. 

Let me recall here the principles on which I tried 
to build the screen dialogue in Deserter. Imagine 
four people sitting in a room. They are talking to 
each other. We know that when a spectator sees 
four characters seated spaced out on a stage, his 
attention, rendered intent by rhythm, moves from 
one character to another in obedience to definite 
laws. Now he looks at the speaker, now at the 
listeners, now at a particular one of them. This 
transference of his attention is, in fact, dictated to 
him by the line of the inner content of the scene. 
Each of the four actors has a definite significance in 
the development of the action. Their interlocking, 


the dependence of the possible actions of one on the 
words of the other, is what causes the spectator to 
throw his attention from one dramatis persona to 
another, and the temporal and spacial diagram of 
this transference is naturally in direct causal rela- 
tionship to the importance the spectator grants at 
each given moment to the given dramatis persona. 

We know that the cinema, with its camera capable 
of movement and its consequent close-up, has the 
possibility of selecting only that object necessary at 
a given moment as though concentrating the 
spectator's attention upon it. The non-stationary 
camera as though takes upon itself the responsible 
task of dictating to the spectator the precise rhythm 
and sequence of attention transference that has 
been planned in advance by author, director, and 
actor. The cinema does not leave the spectator 
the freedom allowed him by the stage. 

The rhythmic construction of a scene editably shot 
and then presented upon the screen achieves, as we 
have said, a precision and exactitude only paralleled 
by that of music. 

I shall take three various possible forms of edited 
dialogue (these by no means exhaust the possibili- 

First, let us imagine one of the four actors is 
speaking. We see on the screen only the speaker; 
we hear the question he asks of one of his com- 
panions. The spectator awaits the answer to the 
question. In the theatre he would have turned his 
head and looked at the person who was going to 


answer, whereas in the cinema, the director, sensing 
the inevitability of this impulse on the part of the 
spectator, replaces with lightning speed the image 
of the questioner with the image of the person ques- 
tioned. The spectator first sees this actor, then 
hears the expected answer. In the edited sound film 
the image of the actor appears narrowly in advance 
of his words. 

Now case two. A person is speaking; we see him 
on the screen. He finishes speaking, but our interest 
is still centred on him for some reason — probably we 
expect him to continue his speech. At this moment, 
however, one of the others join in; we hear his 
words, but for the moment we do not see him, and 
only when the impact of his words on our conscious- 
ness has aroused our interest, do we turn our head to 
look at him. The edited sound film is so con- 
structed that a portion of the words of the second 
actor is heard over the image of the first, and the 
image of the second actor, a fraction delayed, 
appears only after a given lapse of time. Here the 
sound precedes the image. 

The third case. A person speaks; we are inter- 
ested in the reaction of the other actors to this speech. 
We watch them as they listen to the continuing 
speaker. Our attention is transferred back and 
forth from speaker to listeners and again to speaker. 
In the sound film follow alternately images of the 
speaking actor and the listening actors with the 
words of the speaking actor constant over the images 
of both. 


If we analyse carefully these simplest examples of 
forms of edited dialogue, we see that we have here 
two complementary kinds of rhythm marching side 
by side. The first is a sound-dialogue rhythm in 
which words alternate with pauses, a question is 
succeeded by an answer. And these speeches and 
pauses alternate in the same way as they do in 
objective reality. The dialogue is here recorded, as 
it could be if played through on a theatre stage. 

What, now, is the second kind of rhythm, that of 
the alternation of the images of the individual actors? 

We have seen in these examples how the alterna- 
tion of the images may not always coincide with the 
alternation of the voices of the given actors. The 
image is at times ahead of the appearance of a new 
voice, at times behind, or changes rhythmically 
during the continuous speech of one and the same 
voice. The alternation of images here fundamen- 
tally represents the emotional and intellectual atti- 
tude of the spectator towards the content of the 
dialogue, towards the content of each role, towards 
each of the persons taking part in the given scene. 

In fact, when a director edits a scene, he estimates 
by how much the words should precede the image, 
or the image the words. It stands to reason, for 
example, that, if the importance at the given moment 
of the actor who has just finished speaking be con- 
siderable, then the spectator must be offered a con- 
siderable portion of the words of another speaker 
before he will tear his attention away from the first 
and transfer it to the second. 


While if, conversely, the argument of the second be 
impatiently awaited by the eager spectator, being 
anticipated as vital and important in the course of 
the development of the action, then a single syllable 
may suffice to swing the attention of the spectator 
away from first to second. 

Hence we perceive that the process of editing does 
not imply a purely mechanical function of separate 
images. The combination of the two complemen- 
tary rhythms — objectively recorded speech and 
edited image — yields as result the entire revelation 
of the significance of the scene; it is the means where- 
by the director hints to the spectator the requi- 
site attitude to the scene that will reveal its inner 
content, and indeed also the relationship of that 
content to the unity of the whole of the film. 

Hence we repeat once more, the interrelationship 
of pieces determined in the editing treatment of a 
scene is no mere mechanical matter. It is a problem 
solution of which involves the profoundest generalisa- 
tion of the content of the scene. In resolving it, 
there must be borne in mind the relative importance 
of every character, or, from another point of view, 
the logical course of interest of the eager spectator, 
for the rhythm here found will determine the actual 
course of his attention, and therefore, in the end, the 
unity and clarity of his reaction to the film. 


One of the most important elements in the solution 
of the problems of sound cinema is the knowledge 
and ability to master the possibilities offered by the 
cinema in duality of sound and image rhythm. In 
attempting to realise these possibilities, the director 
in editing makes himself the first, as it were the 
fundamental spectator. For the purpose of getting 
the very best out of the actor, as we have seen, the 
actor himself can be included in this editing work. 
And if so, in this process is developed and utilised in 
its appropriate function that second side of the actor 
that in the theatre supervises and checks from the 
spectator's angle, as it were, by responding to 
audience reaction. 

To realise his full value in the cinema, the actor 
can and should not only play his role, but be cap- 
able, as well as the director, of bringing to life in the 
editing process the editing treatment planned, 
thereby compelling the spectator to accept, in its 
creatively found due proportion and significance, fhe 
role he plays. By sharing in the discovery of the 
appropriate forms of rhythmic alternation of pieces 
of image and sound, the actor shares in the persua- 
sion of the spectator to the desired inner valuation 



of his acting in any given scene in its relation to 
the whole. 

What follows here does not bear directly on the 
acting of actors in film, but for information, since it 
is desirable that actors should fully understand all 
the possibilities of film and editing, I should like to 
cite one example of editing from Deserter, showing a 
combination of the two rhythmic lines of sound 
and image in accordance with a principle entirely 
different from that already described. 

In the simple examples of the editing of dialogue 
elements already given, it has chanced that the 
sounds reproduced the line of reality objectively, 
whereas the image represented the subjective atti- 
tude to reality of the spectator. 

The combination could, of course, equally easily 
be effected vice versa; that is, the image could be 
fixed objectively in the line of reality, the sound 
could render the subjective valuation of this reality 
in respect to the spectator. 

The last part of Deserter portrays a workers' demon- 
stration in Hamburg and its dispersal by the police. 
How is this done ? First, I shall follow the line of 
the image. 

The quiet streets of Hamburg; street traffic; the 
traffic policeman in control. Suddenly appears a 
symptom of disquiet. The policeman's eye catches 
sight of a distant banner. Panic on the streets. 
They empty. The demonstration approaches. Its 
step is sure and confident. The mass of workers 
grows, again and again new detachments pour to 


join the demonstration from the side-streets. Sum- 
moned by alarm signals, motor-cycles and motor- 
cars filled with police come tearing up. They meet. 
A clash. The demonstration stops. Mounted and 
foot police hurl themselves at the workers, a battle 
begins, centring around the scarlet banner carried 
at the head of the demonstration. The banner falls, 
but is raised again and again. The battle rages, its 
fortunes swaying, but becoming more and more in- 
tense — the police are gaining the upper hand. The 
demonstration is defeated. The banner crashes to 
the ground with the hero clinging to it and a police- 
man clinging to the hero. Those arrested are 
beaten up and led away. Then suddenly, at the 
very last moment, when the defeat of the workers 
has overwhelmed the spectator by its apparent in- 
evitability, the banner, torn from the hands of the 
enemy, soars once again above the crowd and, passed 
from hand to hand, moves farther and farther away, 
establishing the moral if not the physical victory 
of the demonstration. 

This is how the image goes. If it be plotted from 
the viewpoint of its emotional effect, it can be repre- 
sented by a complex curve with a rise at the begin- 
ning, a relative drop in the middle, a vacillation, a 
deep drop near the end, and a final rise at the 

Now, there is a sound line in association with 
this image. I decided to render this sound line 
in music only. Usually music in sound films is 
treated merely as a pure accompaniment, advancing 








r— ( 








• pH 


r— ( 




















in inevitable and monotonous parallelism with the 

Had I intended to connect the music with the 
image of the scene just described in this usual way, 
this approximately is how it would have gone. A 
waltz during the portrayal of the streets of Hamburg; 
a rousing, cheery march tune in association with the 
aggressive forward march of the demonstration; the 
introduction of a danger and disquiet theme when 
the police appear; the enemy theme strengthened 
each time the banner falls and rousing fanfares each 
time it rises during the struggle; music dropped to 
the uttermost depths of despair when the demonstra- 
tion is defeated, and lifted to triumphal victory 
chords when the banner once more soars above the 

The composer — Shaporin — and I decided to 
follow another road. The score was written, 
played, and recorded for the whole of the sequence 
as a single-purposed unity, a workers* march tune 
with constantly running through it the note of stern 
and confident victory, firmly and uninterruptedly 
rising in strength from beginning to end. 

What was the significance of this line ? We rend- 
ered in this second line, that of the sound, the sub- 
jective attitude to be adopted by the spectator 
towards the content of the happenings in the image. 

Marxists know that in every defeat of the workers 
lies hidden a further step towards victory. The 
historical inevitability of constantly recurring class 
battles is bound up with the historic equal inevitabi- 


lity of the growth of the strength of the proletariat 
and the decline of the bourgeoisie. It was this 
thought that led us to the line of firm growth 
towards inevitable victory which we follow in the 
music through all the complications and contradic- 
tions of the events shown in the image. 

The music guides the line of portrayal of the inner 
content representation of this historical march to 
certain victory, consciousness of which cannot, for 
us, be separated from perception of a worker march- 
ing into battle. What results on the screen ? As we 
pass along the quiet streets of Hamburg, we hear in 
the music, softly yet at the same time firmly, the 
sounds of the tune of the marching workers. The 
spectator derives rather an odd feeling from the in- 
congruity between this music and the sight of the 
gleaming motor-cars as they glide past the windows 
of luxury shops. By the time the banner of the 
demonstration appears, the music has grown more 
and more definite, its significance is clear to the 
spectator, and it drags him into step with the 
workers' mass now firmly marching along the wide, 
suddenly emptied streets. 

The police hurl themselves at the demonstrators, 
the battle begins, but the brave music informed with 
the revolutionary spirit that moves the workers and 
links them to the spectator continues to grow. The 
banner falls, but the music rises to crescendo. The 
position of the workers becomes more and more 
desperate, but the music grows. The demonstration 
is beaten, the hero perishes, but the music grows. 


The defeat of the workers and the victory of the 
police overwhelm everything, but the music grows. 
And suddenly, at the very last moment, the banner 
that blazes up above the crowd synchronises in the 
finale with a maximum strength of emotional inten- 
sity in a musical phrase crowning in one topmost 
flight of sound the whole sequence and the whole 

When this sequence has been shown, especially 
when separate from the rest of the film, I have had 
the opportunity to observe cases of great emotional 
upheaval, particularly among persons whose lives 
have been devoted to the tasks of the working-class 
struggle. It has been clear to me that the emotion 
of such spectators cannot be attributed to the com- 
ponent elements separately, such as skilful editing of 
the image or the high quality of Shaporin's musical 
score. The crux of the matter is, of course, that the 
emotion derives from far deeper elements integrated 
as a result of the combination of the two lines — the 
objective representation of reality in the image and 
the revelation of the profound inner content of 
reality in the sound. 

Though the example we have dealt with here does 
not relate directly to the actor's work, it yet is im- 
portant for him, for he is one of those who must 
understand particularly clearly the significance of 
treatment of sound and image, not in their primitive 
naturalistic association, but in a more profound — I 
should term it realistic — association enabling the 
creative worker in the cinema to portray any given 



event, not merely simply in direct representation, 
but in its deepest degree of generalisation. Only 
then when, for each given event, we have found the 
independent rhythmic lines of sound and image 
appropriate to it, and thereby endowed its expres- 
sion with the dual nature that opens the path to its 
dialectical understanding, shall we obtain the 
realistic and exceptionally forceful impression that 
the so numerous technical means of the cinema 
make possible. 

We must not in our work for one moment allow 
anything to stand in the way of fullest realisation of 
this possibility. This is why we must seriously 
tackle the question of broadening the understanding 
and share of the actor. 

Though it might pass that in silent film the actor 
was completely separated from editing, both during 
shooting and during the subsequent cutting-bench 
work, yet in sound film such a practice becomes a 
serious source of weakness. 

In sound film the actor's possibilities in his means 
of organising the form of his work to be presented to 
the spectator are extremely widened, and at the 
same time there has come greater need for precision 
and point. He is able to control without mistake the 
emotions and interest of the spectator, if, of course, 
he understand properly the art of editing. The 
fact that realisation of those possibilities involves 
editing of diverse separate angles means that the 
proper understanding of them will bring him to an 
appreciation of the reason and necessity for splitting 

S 1 
+-» ~ 

o ^ 








his acting during shooting. New possibilities always 
create new complications. 

Full realisation will make actors and theoreticians 
of film acting at last understand that this problem, 
like any other, cannot be regarded only from one 
side. To be influenced solely by the desire to make 
the best and easiest opportunities for the actor to 
remain longest in his part will mean that we shall 
bring into our work the theatricalisation of cinema 
in its worst form. Long pieces, the shooting of films 
in shots of long duration in which two or more 
actors remain on the screen throughout, playing the 
scene through as though on a stage and forcing the 
spectator himself to pick out and choose what he has 
to look at or listen to at any given moment, just as 
though he were a member of a theatre audience — all 
this leads to development of cinema along a false 
and erroneous path, for in following it we follow a 
line of least resistance and renounce use of all the 
good which the cinema gives us and which alone 
the cinema can give. 

The actor will only appreciate the technique of his 
work correctly when he understands it as a weapon 
for his creative struggle. Struggle for what ? I 
reply : for the realistic unity of the acted image. The 
discontinuity of acting in the cinema which enables 
as a result an edited image that can deeply affect the 
spectator must not be destroyed by mechanically 
long scenes, but, by means of the actor's technique, 
by finding method for his work, we must enable him 
to destroy discontinuity's possible bad influence on 


the unity of the acted image. Discontinuity of floor 
work must be counteracted by unity of rehearsal 

The unity the actor discovers within himself during 
the rehearsal period must serve to avert mechanical 
isolation of the separate pieces he has to deal with 
in actual shooting. 


On the stage there are three main matters for the 
actor's technique to deal with: voice, gesture, and 
make-up. Each of these matters is determined, as 
we have already seen, by considerations of what is 
meant by c stage technique ' ; that is, as we have 
already defined, the means used by the actor to 
overcome the harsh limits imposed on him by the 
mechanical basis of the stage, and to achieve realistic 
unity in his image. 

When the actor works on his voice production and 
his intonation, he is guided not by the dictates of 
his role, but by the distance separating stage from 
audience. Actors on the stage whisper loudly, 
thereby contradicting the very meaning of the act of 
whispering. What matter that the dramatic situa- 
tion demands that a given actor's whisper be not 
heard by his colleague standing near ? Not a scrap. 
The whisper must at all costs be heard by the 
spectator sitting in the back row of the balcony. 

When the actor works on the plastics and expres- 
siveness of his gestures, he strives to make them wide 
and generalised, eliminating minuteness not because 
the character whose image he is representing would 
have made such wide gestures, but because they must 
be perceived by the most remote spectator. 



Still again, the actor puts on vivid rouge and draws 
a line of make-up for the purpose of making the 
shape and movements of his face clearly visible from 
that maximum distance which is mechanically con- 
ditioned by the dimensions of the theatre. Thus 
gestures, voice, make-up all constitute technique. 
It is implicit in this technique, we should under- 
stand, that the actor, in increasing the volume of his 
voice, yet strives not to let his lines degenerate into 
false declamation; in broadening the sweep of his 
gestures, yet strives to retain their realistic shape; in 
working out his make-up, remains yet oriented upon 
the realistic features of the human face. 

The sum total of the stage actor's work on his 
voice, gesture, and make-up is covered by the 
formula: theatricalisation of the external shape of 
the acted image. This process cannot, of course, be 
considered as actor's technique by itself. It forms 
also a particular element in the general craft of the 
stage. But, speaking generally, in any art the 
technique of giving external shape to its elements 
cannot be treated as something separate, indepen- 
dent, and isolated from the creative process as a 

In emphasising it as c technique,' I only desire to 
emphasise its direct dependence on the specific con- 
ditions of theatrical performance, distinct from the 
conditions of cinema. 

The c theatricalisation ' of the actor, his technique 
in response to theatrical conditions, cannot be treated 
separately as an art in itself. It is conditioned by 








_ i 





























the actor's striving to make his creation as vivid and 
effective as possible, and, in presentations of realistic 
style, it links up with the general struggle of the artist 
to preserve in the image the maximum complexity 
and vividness of the real-life event being reproduced 
in stage conditions. 

The term ' theatricalisation ' of the actor's image 
should be paralleled in the cinema by a term 
' cinematicisation.' I regard this term as worth 
inventing, because it corresponds to a definite 
content in our film work. 

While c theatricalisation ' involves a strengthening 
of the vividness and effectfulness of his voice delivery, 
gesture, grimace on the part of the actor himself, by 
deliberate effort transforming his normal non-stage 
delivery, gesture, grimace, the cinema achieves the 
same result of strengthening vividness and effective- 
ness by the use of a camera moved from place to 
place, change of angle, perspective, lighting, nearer 
or farther microphone, which means, in other words, 
that ' cinematicisation ' is mainly bound up with 
editing and the knowledge of its methods. Every 
expressive movement of man is always conditioned 
by the dialectical conflict of two elements : the inner 
urge to widen the movement as much as possible, 
and the volitional brake restraining the movement, 
the two by their interaction thereby resulting in an 
expressive form for the movement. 

There exists a definite norm determining the shape 
of human movements in the ordinary conditions of 
real life. On the stage this movement shape is 


altered by means of slackening somewhat the re- 
straining tendency of the will. By this means, by 
unbraking, weakening the restraint of the will, the 
stage actor, preserving the inner meaning of the 
gesture, preserving its inner urge, yet increases its 
sweep and thus makes it clearly and distinctly 
visible to the spectator in the theatre. 

The cinema does not require this unbraking from 
the actor. The least movement, inwardly stimulated 
and restrained to the utmost degree, can yet be seen 
and heard by the spectator through the agency of 
closely approximated camera and microphone. 

We are familiar, even in the theatre, with 
efforts to approach realism in acting, the principal 
being those that characterised Stanislavski and his 

These efforts were realised in their most marked 
form in the early works of the First Studio of the 
Moscow Art Theatre, where the theatre was no 
bigger than a fair-sized room and the actor thus 
maximally approached to the spectator. But this 
method in the theatre immediately and inevitably 
results in a degree of intimacy that contradicts the 
basic requirement of every art — to embrace and 
excite the maximum number of spectators. 

The policy of changing the theatre into an inti- 
mate ' emoting circle ' inevitably resulted in a reac- 
tion and a demand for theatricalisation of the acting 
and the whole performance as such, a reaction 
which, in fact, was led by Stanislavski's closest 
pupils, among them Vakhtangov. 


As we have already seen, the close-up in the 
cinema removes the contradiction between the 
desire for realism in the actor's acting and the re- 
quirement of a maximum audience. 

What are the changes resulting from this in the 
tasks that confront the film actor? First of all, 
resulting from the possibility of approximation of 
camera and microphone to the actor, disappears the 
need artificially to raise the volume of the voice and 
increase the scale of the movements of the body and 
face. In practice disappears from the actor's work 
the element of special study of voice production and 
strength of tone, which, in the film actor, need only 
be strong enough to cover the distance separating 
him from his colleague; in other words, as strong as 
would be requisite in the conditions of actuality. 

(We recall that on the stage the actor must endow 
his voice with a strength determined not by the 
distance separating him from his colleague, but by 
that separating him from the spectator seated in the 

The elementary crudity of theatrical make-up 
becomes, also, entirely purposeless. In the cinema 
the quality of make-up, where this be necessary at 
all, is estimated by its efficaciousness in preserving 
all the finest complexities of expression of the given 
human face. An artificial expression — a cheek 
pasted on, a line drawn to represent a non-existent 
furrow — are simply idiotic in the cinema, inasmuch 
as, deprived of their theatrical purpose of helping 
the actor to establish an expression at a distance, 


they simply become a hindrance damaging that 
expression, particularly destructive in close-up. 

If a film actor were made up in a theatrical way, 
one would have to put the camera in shooting far 
enough back not to see the details of the made-up 
face, so as not to show them to the spectator. 

Stylised make-up automatically forces the cinema 
to renounce its own methods of work and change to 
a simple recording of a theatrical performance from 
the distance and angle of the audience seated in the 
theatre. Everything ' theatricalised ' is wasted or 
even harmful in the cinema. 

The actor's work, at that moment of it which 
takes place in front of the camera, can be as near real 
life as is imaginably possible. The film actor play- 
ing in an exterior, in a real garden, by the side of a 
real tree or a real river, must not feel himself alien 
and apart from the reality around him. The 
formalisation of his work is expressed in that formali- 
sation demanded by cinematic acting. Creative 
work in these conditions demands no less effort, no 
less technique, than the ' theatricalised ' acting of 
the stage actor, but of an entirely different kind. 

In his book My Life in Art, Stanislavski relates how, 
on an occasion during one of their provincial tours, 
a group of actors taking a walk in a park happened 
by chance on a spot that reminded them of the stage 
setting of the second act of Turgeniev's play A Month 
in the Country. 

The actors decided to try playing impromptu in 
the natural background. 


Stanislavski thus tells of the attempt: " Came my 
entry; Olga Knipper and I, as required by the play, 
walked along the long tree-bordered avenue speaking 
our lines. Then we sat down on a seat exactly as in 
our stage business, started talking — and stopped 
because we could not continue. My acting seemed 
false to me against the background of real nature. 
And people say our theatre has brought simplicity to 
the point of absolute naturalism ! How stilted and 
formalised seemed everything we were accustomed 
to do upon the stage." 

I believe that the main element in the acting of the 
film actor has to be precisely the opposite of this, has 
to be, in fact, precisely the ability to walk with a 
colleague, without the slightest feeling of falsehood 
or awkwardness, along a real garden path and 
continue the conversation thus begun sitting on a 
real bench under a real tree. 

Shooting in exteriors has always characterised the 
style of really cinematic productions, and, in my 
view, it will continue to do so in the future. 

It is interesting to note that the theatricalised 
style of the film The Tempest transforms the few 
exterior shots used in it to the appearance of mere 
painted backcloths. 

Stanislavski got his feeling of falsehood probably 
because the feeling of the natural background sur- 
rounding him forced him back upon feeling in all its 
fullness the living reality of his colleague, the impulse 
to speak and move in such a way as he would if con- 
nected with her alone, to raise his voice no higher 


than necessary from the point of view of a person 
standing close to him, to sit down on the bench in 
such a way as to be turned comfortably towards the 
person he was talking to without consideration of an 
audience looking at him from a definite viewpoint 
and demanding not merely the fact of a given 
movement but its emphasised portrayal. 

Despite the fact that Stanislavski had striven with 
all his might towards the creation of actuality in the 
theatre, by means of transplanting naturalism on to 
the stage, training himself as an actor precisely into 
the scheme of a complete separation of himself from 
the audience and inclusion of himself into a separate 
life, with his colleague, on the stage, subduing the 
feeling of special c portrayal ' of his behaviour — yet 
at his first contact with the surroundings of real life 
he felt the inevitability of the influence of stage 
conditions on the form of the actor's creative 

When we speak of the c unnecessary staginess ■ of 
a film actor's performance, we so term it not because 
staginess necessarily involves anything of itself wrong 
or unpleasant. We simply register an unpleasant 
sensation of incongruity, and therefore falseness, as 
though at the sight of a man striving to negotiate a 
non-existent obstacle. 

An elocutionary distinctness in an uttered word, 
theatrical loudness in a voice, even a slightly empha- 
sised or generalised gesture, conflicting on the screen 
with the nearness of the huge close-up that is the 
nearest approach of spectator to actor, inevitably 


creates a sensation of unnecessary and foolish 

But the same artificiality, the same gesture, in 
theatrical conditions, and therefore realistically 
directed towards the overcoming of obstacles really 
existing, becomes a high form of art deeply moving 
to the audience. 

In a theatrical school, work on voice production 
and intonation forms the basis of the lessons on acting 
technique. In sound-film training, efforts are now 
made in the same direction, but unfortunately they 
are too often based on a mere mechanical transplan- 
tation into the cinema of stage practices. 

I believe that the Americans, who have devoted all 
their attention to the perfection of recording appa- 
ratus, and the invention of apparatus that can correct 
speech defects recorded on the film by modification 
in cutting or re-recording of the film itself, are on a 
much more promising path. 

The whole idea of elocution and voice production 
in sound film reminds one of the hoary and idiotic 
concept of c photogenic faces, 5 and how film techni- 
cians used to declare in the old days that an actor 
could possess special facial and bodily qualities 
capable of creating a perfect and expressive screen 
image. Nowadays, at all events, we know that 
cameras and lighting have shown that any human 
being can give a beautiful image; all we have to do 
is to find out how to photograph him. 


From all we have said so far, it might be concluded 
that the technique of the film actor must be oriented 
around two basic elements: first, the mastering of, 
and subordination by him of his acting to, the crea- 
tive problems of the art of editing ; second, the 
absorption of the acted image, organically and 

But we come now to the question — what part is 
played in the film actor's work by what in ordinary 
parlance is called sincerity, spontaneity, natural- 
ness ? We know that in the cinema, in contrast to 
the theatre, there are frequently instances of actors 
who act their own selves. There are cases of sup- 
porting or minor roles played by persons who have 
never studied acting in any conceivable way, yet 
who not only create strong and impressive images, 
but also fall in perfectly with the general style 
of the film, although professional actors also take 
part in it. 

This would be impossible on the stage. A real 
live dog in The Eccentric, 1 the thundering of the 
hooves of real steeds on the wooden boards in 
Hamlet, either is revolting and entirely out of key with 
the whole performance. Yet one could hardly name 

1 Play by A. Afinogenov. — Tr. 


Unnamed player as a jail officer, 
" Mother/' Pudovkin. 


a film in which, alongside real actors, one does not 
see animals and children, who in no wise damage 
its sense of stylistic unity. 

Plenty might be said against the contention that a 
casual man from the street, a * non-actor, 5 could act 
a big and complicated role in a film. But it is im- 
possible, without theoretical trickery, to argue that 
such a casual 6 non-actor ' in a small scene or simple 
' bit,' even placed next to a good film actor, would 
necessarily create in a film the same feeling of dis- 
turbance and out-of-placeness for the spectator that 
he feels at the sight of non-theatrical behaviour on 
the stage, such as in the already cited cases of dogs 
and horses, or, for example, the children who are 
sometimes introduced into a stage show. 

Stanislavski himself, who, from the very beginning 
of his dramatic career, strove to attain naturalness in 
acting, was forced to abandon the idea of introducing 
into a theatrical performance an old peasant woman, 
in spite of the fact that she seemed to him to be the 
embodiment of truth and expressiveness. 

It is, of course, not suggested that a film actor 
should limit himself to the possibility of once or twice 
playing his own self. Even if he play his own self, 
he must none the less modify his behaviour to some 
degree, in subordinating it to the task set out by the 
film as a whole ; the role, even if himself, must be 
given some basic ideological directional characteristic. 
In no case, of course, will or can the image appearing 
on the film be a simple copy of the given person who 
acts, with the whole sum of his individual character- 


istics. In the end even a casual * non-actor * 
(wrongly called t type 9 x ) in some measure follows 
the editing instructions of the director, in other 
words, does some acting. 

The film actor, in the course of a protracted career 
involving work in several films, is bound to work on 
the creation of various images some of which at least 
are not identical with his own individual character- 
istics. Thus, inevitably, is bound to arise the ques- 
tion of working over himself, embodiment in an 
image outside himself, howsoever it may be dealt 

The actor in his creative process first learns 
reality; then, together with the spectator and by 
means of the specific peculiarities of his art, he ex- 
presses externally the results of his knowledge in the 
form of a newly organised artificial behaviour com- 
posed by himself. In this work he invariably strives 
to preserve in live undestroyed shape his personal 
existence, he strives to continue to feel himself in 
front of the camera a whole, living person and not a 
mechanised likeness of one, and if, as we have 
already seen we do, we deny the mechanical con- 
ception of the construction of the actor's work, then 
already we acknowledge the necessity in this process 
for c incarnating oneself into ' the image. 

I shall not here analyse the process of ' living into/ 
or appropriating to one's person, the image. A 

1 Pudovkin uses the word * type,' not for the non-acting material, 
to whom it is sometimes applied in the West, but for a stylised figure, 
who always plays a given role and none other — villain, hero, 
policeman, mother-in-law, etc. — Tr. 


whole series of methods to this end, assembled even 
into a complex methodology, has been worked out 
by stage craftsmen. We have and will again later 
discuss its importance. 

Let us now note only and essentially that this pro- 
cess of appropriation of the image, the transmutation 
by the actor of his personal behaviour into the 
behaviour of the role-man, is indispensable for the 
transmission to the spectator of an organically whole, 
realistically impressive live image. Having ac- 
cepted this principle, we then note that, in the 
theatre, the person of the actor inevitably comes into 
conflict with the element of theatricalisation in the 
external forms of the image he appropriates. In the 
cinema these elements of theatricalisation are made 
unnecessary by the presence of the non-stationary 
camera and microphone that make possible an 
edited shooting of the actor. The actor in the film, 
being thus freed from the element of theatricalisa- 
tion, is left with, as sole preoccupation, maximum 
approach of himself to realisticness. 

By what process do we gather knowledge of a 
phenomenon as more and more real ? By the pro- 
cess of approaching it, studying it, in all its depth, in 
all its richness, in all the complexity of its linkage to 
other phenomena. 

In art we term an image realistic if it be a repre- 
sentation of objective reality imaged with maximum 
exactitude, maximum clarity, maximum profundity, 
and maximum embrace of its complexity. 

The frequent use of the word * maximum * in this 


description suggests to us that naturalism is the 
highest form of the realistic tendency in art. 

But again and again it is necessary to repeat that 
naturalism, realism, and idealism in art are not 
separate and independent forms, capable of existence 
unconnected with one another. 

Naturalism and idealism are both hypertrophied 
forms, divorced in their development from the 
proper course of apprehension of reality, which 
always returns from abstract generalisation to 
living actuality, in order, having generalised 
living actuality once again, thereby to advance 

Naturalism, idealism, and realism in art stand 
in the same relation to one another as do 
mechanism, idealism, and dialectical materialism 
in philosophy. 

Those of the naturalist school, in copying a pheno- 
menon of actuality and not generalising it, create a 
mere cold mechanism, without the inner links that 
exist in actuality within the phenomenon, and 
without the outer links that bind it to other pheno- 
mena as a part to the whole. 

The realism of a representation increases as 
its approach to the complexity of an actual 
object and as its deepening by detail, but at the 
same time it must portray the object as part of a 

Realistic work, then, only escapes from naturalism 
when in its representation of a phenomenon are 
present both the general external linkage and the 


inner generalising elements that (together with the 
outward appearance) make the given phenomenon 
in actuality a part connected to a whole. 

Applying this principle to the work of the actor, 
it is clear that the realistic tendency in art will urge 
him towards the necessity for assembling, at some 
stage of his work, the separate discontinuous pieces 
of his acting in front of the camera into a whole 
inseparably linked with the whole of the show and, 
in general, with the place of the show in our con- 
stantly developing social life. 

The old paradox of Diderot, which pointed out 
the possibility of the actor during a show being able 
to make the spectator cry by the excellent playing of 
his role and, simultaneously, his colleague laugh as 
he stands in the wings, by a comic grimace, and 
which thus apparently established the possibility of 
a mechanical split in the actor's behaviour into 
behaviour of a living person and behaviour in the 
play — none the less in no way contradicts the neces- 
sity, at some stage or other of the actor's working on 
his role, for a whole and organic unity of these two 

In this sense the teaching of Stanislavski is in its 
premises profoundly true and honest. Let it be that 
the actor on the stage does not, during the perform- 
ance, live the life of the character he acts. But if the 
audience gets, in the impression it receives, a feeling 
of living realistic unity in the image, then this unity 
must come from somewhere. 

This unity must emerge somewhen during the 


creative process of the actor's work on the character. 
Coquelin and Karatuigin, 1 who both used tp * put 
something over ' in their acting, somewhere and 
sometime in their work must have created the con- 
tent they portrayed. 

The example of the cinema makes this contention 
even more clear. Actually, the grey-white shadows 
that flicker across the screen do not feel anything. 
They are there, technically fulfilling the part once 
and for all allotted to them, a series of fragmentary, 
separate movements — yet none the less the spectator 
receives the impression of a unified image. Why ? 
Because as the basis of the selection of these separate 
movements has been made the organic unity of the 
real phenomenon recorded on the film. 

It is interesting that it is characteristic of the 
cinema that it can allow the actor to stop his work 
before the form found for embodying his role has yet 
become a habit learned by rote and mechanically 

We know that there exists in the theatre the peril 
of * getting stale, 3 as it is called. 

Stanislavski, giving in his memoirs a comparative 
valuation of his acting in the role of Dr. Stockman in 
its earlier and later phases, writes as follows: " Step 
by step I look back through the past and realise 
more and more clearly that the inner content that 
I put into my role at the time of first creating it and 
the outer form into which the role has degenerated 
in course of time are as far apart from each other as 

1 A Russian Garrick. 


heaven and earth. At first everything came from 
a beautiful and moving inner truth, and now 
all that is left of it is empty husks, rubbish, and 
dust left over in body and soul from various casual 
causes that have nothing in common with real and 
true art." 

I incline to think that this weather-beating of 
Stanislavski's inner truth was not solely due to the 
frequency with which he repeated his role. Surely 
it was due to the fact that Stanislavski himself 
underwent changes, and the inner organic elements, 
which at first linked him to the image of Stockman 
he had found, later no longer existed. 

I cite this example because its sharpness underlines 
the contrast provoked by the film actor's work, the 
feature of which is that its living real link with the 
acted image ceases much earlier than does that of 
the stage actor, and, in the main, ceases at that 
conscious and deliberate moment of choice which 
the artist in any given art except the stage art uses 
to place a limit to his polishing of his creation. 

The film actor must be truthful, sincere, and, in 
his striving for realism of the image, natural. This 
naturalness is not destroyed in him by the demands 
of theatricalisation. But, on the other hand, to find 
the right content for the acting image does inevitably 
require a great deal of important preliminary work 
on the inner absorption of it. 

Here we see converging the fundamental claims 
of the Stanislavski school and the basic desiderata 
we set out for the film actor. 


In my view, many of the methods adopted by the 
Moscow Art Theatre school are closest to what is 
wanted and most useful to bear in mind when setting 
up a school of film acting. Of course, one must be 
able to recognise and separate out from all the basic 
rules promulgated and introduced by Stanislavski 
those elements of theatricalisation which are suitable 
only for a theatre school. 

The right course, I fancy, is to imitate the Moscow 
Art Theatre school, not in the form in which it 
actually exists to-day, but in the form in which it 
would exist based upon Stanislavski's ideas of 
verisimilitude of acting which, in the last resort, he 
could never realise because, so long as he worked in 
the theatre, he could never rid himself of its con- 

Extremely interesting are those passages in 
Stanislavski's memoirs where he speaks of the neces- 
sity for c gestureless ' moments of immobility on the 
part of the actor, to concentrate on his feelings all 
the attention of the spectator. 

Stanislavski felt that an actor striving towards 
truth should be able to avoid the element of portray- 
ing his feelings to the audience, and should be able 
to transmit to it the whole fullness of the content 
of the acted image in some moment of half-mystic 
communion. Of course, he came up against a 
brick wall in his endeavours to find a solution to 
this problem in the theatre. 

It is amazing that solution of this very problem is 
not only not impracticable in the cinema, but 


o z 









extreme paucity of gesture, often literal immobility, 
is absolutely indispensable in it. For example, in 
the close-up, in which gesture is completely dis- 
pensed with, inasmuch as the body of the actor is 
simply not seen. 


In speaking of realistic work by film actors, it is 
necessary to point out the tremendous importance 
of the experiments carried out in the cinema in work 
with so-called ' non-actors * (I deliberately refrain 
from using the misleading term ' type '). I am far 
from the intention of providing excuse for any theory 
affirming that the cinema does not need specially 
trained actors. The formulation of such a theory 
has in the past been carefully ascribed to me, regard- 
less of the obvious fact that all my practical experi- 
ence in the cinema, in literally every film, has been 
connected not only with specially trained film actors, 
but also with former stage actors. 1 

I shall not delve into these ' theoretical exaggera- 
tions,' which I have already referred to elsewhere, 
but simply recall the facts, which are, that, in indi- 
vidual cases of work with non-actors, we have dis- 
covered in practice that, and sought in theory the 
reason why, elements of the real behaviour of a 
person not trained in any school are not out of 
place in a film and, indeed, at times can serve 

1 Pudovkin has, it is true, never specifically advocated the exclu- 
sive use of non-actors. But how far his enthusiasm for each problem- 
of-the-hour has laid him open to the ascription he complains of may 
be judged by the reader of his lecture to the Film Society, included 
in Film Technique (Newnes). — Tr. 



as an example to be followed by experienced 

It seems to me that these experiences point first 
and foremost to the fact that the film actor, both in 
the whole and in every fragment of his work, should 
always orient his behaviour on the real concrete 
feeling of the purpose he follows in each separate 
piece. It should be recalled here that, in the 
cinema, this purpose nearly always has real, and in 
all the fullness of their reality sensible, forms. The 
whole atmosphere of exterior work, so characteristic 
for films, shows this. 

In what manner have I used casual persons, non- 
actors, in my own films ? My method has been to 
create in the given pieces those real-life conditions 
the reaction to which of the non-actor was bound to 
be precisely that element I needed for the film. 

Let us take as example the Young Communist and 
his piece of acting at the meeting in the last reel of 
Deserter. The boy photographed in this role was a 
naturally self-conscious subject, and, of course, the 
atmosphere of shooting and his anticipation of the 
requirements the director was about to make from 
him combined to render him excited, self-conscious, 
and tie him generally into knots. 

I purposely strengthened and increased the atmo- 
sphere that was making him self-conscious because 
it gave me the necessary colouring. When I made 
him stand up in response to applause, and then began 
to praise his acting unstintedly and flatteringly, the 
youngster, much as he tried, was unable to hold 


back a tremendous smile of complete satisfaction, 
which gave me as result a gorgeous piece. I regard 
this piece as one of the most successful in the whole 
scheme, if such a term is legitimate in this case, of 
the film's acting. 

In this case all the real conditions of shooting did 
in actual fact happen to coincide with the conditions 
that later invested the scene on the screen. They 
fitted both the confusion of the Young Communist 
on being unexpectedly elected to the presidium of a 
huge meeting, and his uncontrollable pleasure when 
the huge meeting greeted the announcement of his 
name with unanimous applause. 

Certainly it was not the acting of an actor, for the 
element of conscious creation was not present in the 
lad who portrayed the Young Communist. But this 
experience can be turned inside out and applied on 
its practical side to help any actor wanting to find, in 
concert with the director, a realistic prop to bolster 
up his mood. 

In the theatre, of course, as we have already seen, 
a real-life prop of this kind has either to be imagined 
or replaced by the magic ' just suppose ' invented 
by Stanislavski. 

About this * just suppose ' Stanislavski writes as 
follows: " The actor says to himself: all this scenery, 
props, make-up, public performance, etc., is a com- 
plete lie. I know it and I don't care. These things 
have no significance for me . . . but . . . just suppose 
all this that surrounds me on the stage were true, 
then this is how I should react to this or that event." 


From this magic c just suppose, 5 according to 
Stanislavski, derives the true creative existence of 
the actor. Maybe this is true, for the theatre, since 
the theatricalisation of the actor's behaviour is an 
indispensable aspect of his art. In the cinema, 
however, even if this c just suppose ' exist, it does so 
in an entirely different form, probably connected, 
as is nearly every element of generalisation, with the 
editing treatment of the role. 

I recall another characteristic example of work 
with a non-actor occurring during the shooting of 
The Story of a Simple Case. 

There was a scene as follows: a father and his 
small son, a Pioneer, who have not seen each other 
for a long time, meet. It is early morning. The 
boy is just out of bed. He is stretching and flexing 
his muscles after sleep. At his father's question, 
" How's life, Johnny ? " he turns towards him, and 
instead of an answer gives him a sweet, rather shy, 

The task set was complicated and, besides, the 
object to be shot had to be a boy about ten years of 
age, because in the cinema not even the most old- 
fashioned and stage-minded director would dare to 
use a grown-up actor, or a girl made up to represent 
a boy, as is possible and has often been done on the 

In working with a non-actor it is impossible to 
count on rehearsals. Mechanically remembered 
movements are nearly always useless in such cases. 
To find the necessary form creatively and then, 


having found it, get it repeated is, of course, in work 
with anybody not specially trained also impossible. 
Therefore it is necessary, even in a case of such 
complex action, to be able, taking into account as 
finely and sensitively as possible the character of the 
person playing, to establish for him such conditions 
as will produce the movements required by the 
director in natural and inevitable reaction to a 
given external stimulus. 

I therefore planned as follows : I decided, first and 
foremost, to make the boy experience a real pleasure 
from the process of stretching, more even, feel a need 
for it. To achieve this, I bade him bend forward, 
grip his feet with his hands, and hold them in this 
position until I gave him permission to straighten up. 

" Then," I told him, " you'll feel a genuine 
pleasure in stretching and straightening your 
muscles, and that's just what I want." 

I deliberately explained to him the content of the 
whole problem, reckoning that he would be inter- 
ested in the experiment. This interest I needed for 
the success of point number two of my task. 

The boy was really interested; I felt it. Now I 
further reckoned thus: when I give him permission 
to straighten out, and he stretches with genuine 
pleasure, I shall interrupt his movement with a 
question: " Well, Johnny, isn't it grand to stretch ? " 

Talking during the shot was not allowed; the boy 
knew he had to keep silent. I knew his nature well, 
and I was convinced that he would answer me with 
precisely the smile I needed, acquiescent, and a 


little confused and shy at the unusualness of the 

I repeat: rehearsals would have been useless; I 
was all out for the spontaneity of the reaction I had 
foreseen might come. 

The scene began. The boy stood bent down- 
wards. I allowed him to straighten out, he stretched ; 
I saw on his face a satisfaction both of physical 
pleasure and from his feeling that the game I had 
suggested to him was going without a hitch. I put 
my question and received in reply the beautiful and 
sincere smile I wanted. 

Of course, it might have failed, but I was con- 
vinced that it would not, and I was right. 

Work with casual persons, of course, requires 
especial fertility of invention on the part of the 
director. Equally, of course, it cannot be general- 
ised into a principle suitable for work with all actors. 
Nor is it possible to schematise such examples of 
work with ' non-actors ' into a sort of scholastic 
system. But I do believe that, from the experience 
of such work, one might derive much that would be 
useful in practice for the process of absorption into 
the image, and the search for externally expressive 
methods of portrayal of inner states. 

The creation of conditions that evoke a reaction 
naturally can sometimes be of great assistance in the 
search for forms for the acting even of professional 
actors, especially in circumstances of shooting in 

In considering the question of the c non-actor/ the 


following should also be borne in mind: while it is 
idle to suggest the complete replacement of experi- 
enced and specially trained film actors by casual 
persons, it is equally impossible to attempt to pro- 
duce a film with the whole colossal number of roles 
taking part in it filled exclusively by professional 
actors. To refuse in any circumstances to use 
casual personnel without special training in acting 
is to abandon film-making altogether. A simple 
mathematical calculation will prove this: the num- 
ber of big roles in an average play is fifteen to 
twenty; in an average film there will probably be 
more like sixty, eighty, even a hundred separate 
scenes of different persons, each of whom has definite 
and considerable importance. Tiny bit roles, occu- 
pying as small a time on the screen as twenty 
seconds to a minute, yet often solve highly important 
and serious problems and correspondingly demand 
a high level of expressiveness. 

The mass, the crowd that remains on the stage of 
a theatre as something solid, general, undivided, 
splits in the film, as we know, into close-ups. The 
content of a crowd as a whole is revealed through 
the detail of its component human beings. In a 
close-up, each of these components of the crowd 
requires to be no less true and expressive than the 
actor who plays the leading role. 

While on the stage a petty incident may be of only 
slight importance, turning out to be only a connect- 
ing link or, perhaps, just background atmosphere, in 
the cinema, with the continuous concentration of the 


attention of the spectator on each frame, these 
transitional, merely connecting elements do not 

In the film, every piece, even the smallest, must 
have a hundred per cent/content if the film is to be 
constructed clearly and rhythmically. The high 
standard that must be applied to the smallest inci- 
dent should be considered in conjunction with the 
practical difficulties of concrete film production and 
the impossibility of keeping hanging around an in- 
definite number of small-part players. In Holly- 
wood, of course, thousands of extras and small-part 
players live permanently in the film city. But this 
system could hardly be established with us. 1 With 
the correct development of cinema as an art maxi- 
mally embracing and absorbing reality, with the 
consequent increase of exterior scenes causing loca- 
tion journeys of producing units to various parts of 
our country, one can hardly reckon upon carting 
about with one a huge crowd of actors for use only 
in one-minute-long scenes. 

We shall always have to face the necessity for the 
director to know how to use for such scenes whatever 
persons he can collect on a location possibly far 
removed from his headquarters in the capital. 

The position is further aggravated, I suggest, by 
the impossibility of using broad make-up, which on 

1 In the Soviet Union the general shortage of labour precludes 
nlm-extra-ing as a profession. Film crowds are called, in the main, 
from a roster of persons whose occupation is of such a nature as to 
enable them to snatch a few hours from their jobs at odd intervals. 
— Tr. 


the stage can transform a young Khmelev * to an 
old porter. 

Of course, there could still remain open the course 
of adapting the scenario to the stock company the 
given studio has at its disposal. Kuleshov, who 
writes his scenarios with a meticulous eye on the size 
and composition of his producing collective, is in- 
clined to favour this style of work. But this path, it 
seems to me, is not one that opens for exploitation 
the colossal possibilities of the cinema; on the con- 
trary, it closes the way to real, profound develop- 

This is a matter that raises questions of the funda- 
mental style of work. There is no reason why one 
should not take into account one or two leading 
actors, the better to adjust the content of the 
scenario, but it is out of the question to attempt it in 
respect to a hundred incidents. Such an attempt 
would even be objectless since experience has already 
shown, as we have seen, that ways can be found of 
fully exploiting untrained material in film acting. 

The only barrier preventing such use would be 
scholastic maintenance of i the cinema is for the 
actor " as an abstract principle. 

1 Also a Russian Garrick. — Tr. 


I return once more to the film actor's work on his 
role, and propose to pause at the very first stage — 
that of the choice of it. The film actor, like any 
artist in any art, bases himself on the profoundest 
absorption of the image in its teleology and in its 
ideology. In this process are inevitably present not 
only objective but also subjective elements. 

If his only interest in the image planned is the task 
to be performed by the play or scenario as a whole, 
and if in the execution of this task he, as an actor, 
is not also interested in the image itself in the deepest 
degree, then no work of art will result. 

If the play as a whole and the role in the play 
solve something that is alien to and divorced from 
the inner world of the artist himself, then no work of 
art will result. Only if play and role both speak in 
some degree about something that the artist himself 
desires to say with deepest sincerity and passion, 
only then can one be sure that his work will result 
in a real creative work of art. 

I hold that from the very beginning, at the primary 
first encounter of the actor with his role, there must 
be present the element of deep inner interest on the 
part of the actor. 

But apart from this general inner interest from the 

m 127 


very start of the work, the actor must infallibly feel 
and think out clearly the degree to which he himself 
is suitable for the perfect execution of the future 
work. It is no good the appeal of a role that in- 
terests the actor being limited to its ideological con- 
tent. There must be an element of sympathy for 
characteristics in the role that will find an echo in 
the individual character and cultural background of 
the actor and can therefore become points of depar- 
ture for the direction of his future work in appro- 
priating the image. 

From the first moment he encounters his role, the 
actor must feel an emotional sympathy with it in 
itself, apart from its links to the scenario as a whole. 
This primal moment of presentiment of the fullness 
and reality of the image may be personal to the actor, 
or may be discovered by him with the help of the 

But in either case, this element of the actor 
being deeply moved by the possibilities of his pro- 
posed future work should determine the choice of 

It will be advisable to dwell a little more fully on 
this question of casting, because our present practice 
is still the mechanical allotment of roles to actors, 
sometimes without taking into consideration their 
personal individual qualities, and always ignoring 
their creative interestedness. 

It is clear that an actor's work in a given role will 
only give good results when it is preceded by an 
element of choice in his acceptance of the role — the 








J H 


outcome of an urge within him to play the particular 

The film actor is far less favourably situated in this 
respect than the stage actor. The cinema knows 
no, or, more strictly speaking, few, established acting 
collectives, and the scenario, although as a rule 
written for a specific director, usually ignores the 
question of the cast, which is only later assembled 
and fitted into the roles. 

The opportunity for a film actor to choose a role 
is non-existent, and limited in practice to the possi- 
bility of saying yes or no to the offer of a given role. 

I must say that the fault lies not only with the 
present organisation of the film industry and the 
lack of initiative obtaining among scenarists and 
directors. A large share of responsibility, permit me 
to say, for this sad state of affairs lies at the door of 
the lack of film culture among the actors themselves. 

Let us analyse carefully the meaning of the element 
of being carried away emotionally by the role, 
which alone should decide the actor in his choice 
of it. 

Before he begins his work on the image, the actor 
must (else he is no artist) be able to size up all this 
future work generally, as a whole. On the one 
hand, he must see in it his own interest in and 
emotion at the general task; on the other, and para- 
mountly, he must sense in it clearly those possibilities 
in the external treatment of the image that are 
linked, first, with his estimate of the personal quali- 
ties of the proposed character, second, with his 


knowledge of the technical means he possesses to 
express them. 

A rapid sizing up of all the possibilities the future 
role can give him is essential for the actor. It is this 
necessary, first-line general planning associated with 
every task and taking fully into account the problems 
with which it will confront him which should decide 
a man in taking on a job or refusing it. To this 
preliminary sensing of the role, the actor must bring, 
as I have said, not only a general ideological interest, 
but a complete summary review and feeling over of 
his own abilities and possibilities, his acting talents, 
the technical methods he possesses, his character, 
temperament, and background; in short, the sum 
total of his psycho-physiological characteristics. 

A stage actor, when approaching the task of 
general feeling of the image, and weighing up the 
pros and cons of accepting or rejecting it, makes use 
of his knowledge of the specifics of stage work. 

As we have seen, in his system of training, the film 
actor should approach the Stanislavski school. 
Therefore the basic elements of his primal liking for 
a r6le should be founded principally on the inner 
content of the image. But none the less, it would be 
a gross error to divorce this content from the 
external forms by means of which it will be trans- 
mitted to the spectator from the screen. 

Unfortunately full knowledge of these forms has 
hitherto been the exclusive possession of the director, 
and the actor has either possessed such knowledge 
not at all or only in small, highly insufficient degree. 


The liking of a film actor for a given role has been 
primitive, in most cases quite disorganised, and often 
the mere desire of a comedian to play Hamlet. In 
case of an organised liking, the actor sympathetic 
towards a role is attracted by it because, even in the 
primary sensing of it, he already appreciates that 
every element in it that interests him not only does 
excite and interest him, but also is perceptible to 
him as one he can form and shape. The tasks may 
be as difficult as can be, but they will be accomplish- 
able — that is the main thing. 

For a primal taking-to-the-role of this kind, it is 
unquestionably necessary that the actor possess full 
and all-sided knowledge of the technique of his art. 
He must be fully armed with technical knowledge in 
order to judge whether a liking for a role on his 
part will lead to a real, and the necessary, result. 

The stage actor who knows his stage, his pro- 
ducer, and his colleagues, the technical bases of the 
theatre, can bring this primal sizing up of his part 
to the pitch of imagining himself as he will appear 
on the stage in front of the audience. 

The film actor, as a rule, does not imagine to him- 
self the possibilities he has, or which can be put at his 
disposal, for the creation of the final form of his 
image on the screen, and without imagining this an 
actor cannot properly work. Hitherto this imagina- 
tion has been the exclusive prerogative of the direc- 
tor. This is the man who hitherto has visualised in 
advance the actor's edited image, that is, the image 
that is to exist on the screen for the spectator, and it 


has been his task to introduce this visualisation into 
the subjective compass of the living actor. 

Of course, the film actor is not responsible for the 
fact that the general organisation of our film industry 
prevents and hinders his opportunities of sufficiently 
mastering the technical culture of film art. But, for 
whatever reason, he has been placed in such a position 
as to be unequipped to exercise full responsibility 
in his choice of a role. He has been mechanically 
separated from the sphere of editing, which has been 
kept as a preserve for the director, whereas in truth 
knowledge of it is the first and foremost condition of 
full film-culture for the actor most of all. 

In conclusion, therefore, we see that the question 
of an actor's primal liking for a role comes back in 
practice in the end to the fact that the actor must be 
in possession of a much wider and deeper technical 
knowledge of the cinema, so that his liking for a role 
will be not just based on a primitive hunch, but an 
element, obeying definite laws, in the full creative 
process of work on the image. 


To deal with the question of the necessity for active 
participation by the actor in the choosing of his role, 
it was at one time thought to find a solution by 
organising a system of actors putting in ' claims ' for 
their roles. These c claims ' were to be based on 
complicated discussions about the schedules of 
themes planned by each studio, which were supposed 
to be the concrete expression of the creative hopes, 
over the given period, not only of scenarists and 
directors, but also of actors who were supposed to 
choose and stake ' claims ' for definite images that 
appealed to them. In my view such a system is 
only likely to result in an unnecessary and foolish 
mechanical competition of claims. Obviously no 
reading of claims, reports, or memoranda could pos- 
sibly replace for the director and scenarist an essen- 
tial acquaintanceship with and feeling of the given 
actor himself. 

Memoranda and meetings are no use for a real 
understanding and estimate of the actor by his 
prospective director; what is required is profound 
mutual study. To speak the plain truth, the 
majority of directors and actors of to-day, despite 
the fewness of their numbers, have hardly ever met 
each other. The question of the producing collec- 



live has, in fact, not even been taken as far as the 
very first step of its possible development. 

In recalling my own experience, I noted to what 
degree of inner contact a director's intimacy with an 
actor should reach in order to ensure the progress of 
shooting in that atmosphere of mutual help and 
trust that is so necessary for fullest advantages in 
creative work. 

Our producing collectives are not together long 
enough to be able to organise themselves for the 
proper carrying out of even one film. 

At present we are so organised that a director has 
no real contact with even the leading members of 
the cast until just before the actual beginning of 

I must quote again my experience with Baranov- 
skaya, when our contact only reached the real inner 
stage about half-way through work on the film. 
With the actor Livanov it was much worse — we only 
reached a mutual creative understanding right at 
the end. 

Such a degree of lack of contact with and know- 
ledge of an actor is, of course, impermissible and 
unpardonable, and indicates the need for immediate 
and most drastic reorganisation. 

I cannot see the formation of permanent creative 
collectives being a practical full solution to the prob- 
lem. One must repeat again and yet again that the 
colossal and unwieldy size of acting staff involved by 
any such attempt, in view of the limited possibilities 
the cinema affords the actor of radically changing 


his appearance, would inevitably cramp the creative 
sweep of the scenarist's imagination, in other words 
strike a blow at the most vital and characteristic 
essential of the film — its idea content. 

On the other hand, of course, one should obviously 
support, develop, and encourage to the uttermost 
and in every possible way the organisation of perma- 
nent collectives in such cases as do find it feasible 
to transform the weight of their efforts into the weld- 
ing of a creative unit out of their component 
workers, if only for instructional purposes, to 
raise the general cinematic culture of the actors 

But I think that, apart from the creation of perma- 
nent collectives, we should also face up to the 
problem of bringing about circumstances which 
would enable an actor and director who have joined 
forces only for one or two films to achieve a profound 
inner mutual understanding and a linkage to one 
another of maximum extent. 

The one and only basis for the formation of a col- 
lective with such an understanding is : first and fore- 
most, the organic collaboration in the creative 
process of all its component workers; next, agree- 
ment in viewpoint, agreement in methods of work, 
in general cinematographic culture. 

Work by such a collective, to go further— the very 
existence of such a collective in any real sense — is 
conceivable only in circumstances where all the 
workers of a producing unit collaborate in as close 
contact as possible from their very inception as a 


unit. Immediately and inevitably arises the ques- 
tion of the participation of the actor in scenario 
work. We have already noted that the common 
experience is for an actor to be confronted with a 
scenario already written, containing a role cut and 
dried and ready for him, when he should be engaged 
in investigating the role for elements that move him 
and could condition the fullness and content of his 
subsequent creative work. 

There also occur examples of a scenarist writing 
his script with a given actor in view. This, of course, 
happens when the scenarist knows the identity of the 
actor to be cast, as would be the case in the circum- 
stance of existence of a permanent collective. 

But yet a third method is possible, and in this the 
actor, invited by director and scenarist, would be 
introduced into the work during the actual process 
of writing of the scenario, and therefore actually 
exercise a certain influence on his role. The con- 
tact resulting would be complex — scenarist, scenario, 
role, actor, director. This method would and 
should be adopted before the scenario is actually 
plotted definitely into its edited shape of shooting 
script. It is my regret that no practice any way 
approaching this has ever been known in our film 
history to date. 

Though one might legitimately say that there have 
been instances of contact between a director and his 
actors or between a director and his scenarists, one 
can with equal certainty state there has never been, 
in the whole of our film history, an instance of close 


contact and co-operation between actor, scenarist, 
and director. 

In my own experience, I have never had a collec- 
tive, and I must confess that during my work I have 
admitted actors to creative collaboration only 
grudgingly and to a miserly extent. This has, of 
course, principally been due to the general atmo- 
sphere of production, which never leaves time for 
mutual intercourse of a really deep creative nature 
between the workers in a producing collective. 

When the actual process of production of the film 
has started, it is already late to begin to set up real 
contact, and in some cases is quite impossible. One 
can still rouse a greater or lesser interest and keen- 
ness on the part of an actor in his work, but one can 
never hope for a really welded linkage with him. It 
is therefore not difficult to appreciate that it is quite 
taken for granted that the actor should fall out 
altogether when the most important stage of work 
on the film begins — that of editing. He steps aside, 
and returns only to see the film in completely fin- 
ished state when he has no chance whatever to 
modify anything the director has done. 

Why is the period of production marked with such 
excitement and nervous strain ? Chiefly because 
one has always to work with an incomplete scenario 
and insufficient preliminary preparation. Too often 
nearly the whole of a director's energy during the 
shooting of a film is spent on working over the shoot- 
ing script, and he only has a chance to familiarise 
his collective with the most vital and important 


elements in their creative work a day, or even an 
hour, before shooting. 

This is a hopeless and essentially bad method of 
introducing the actor into the creative work of the 
collective. No collective can possibly be created 
during the production stage of a film; the good and 
only proper time for its creation is, of course, the 
preparatory pre-shooting period. 

It is only during this preparatory period that the 
conditions suitable for mapping the general lines to 
mutual understanding obtain. It is only during this 
preparatory period that the general orientation of 
the film can be felt, schools of thought agreed, a real 
growth of utmost fullness take place. 

We have already made clear the handicapped 
status of the film actor in our industry. While the 
director has the chance to say as clearly as he likes 
what he wants done, to choose the scenarist most 
suitable for the carrying out of what he plans, to 
pick his own cast, the film actor has hitherto had no 
possible means enabling him to express a desire for 
working along given lines of his selection. 

One school has suggested as way out the giving to 
film actors of the opportunity to try themselves out 
in duplicate during the preparatory period, thereby 
giving them a chance to convince the director of 
their comparative suitability and advantages for the 
given roles. But to have a possibility of choice, one 
must have enough alternatives to choose from. Do 
our actors have this possibility ? Of course not, 
because the actual process of writing the scenario, 


the writing that establishes the final shape, fixing 
sharp and pointed characteristics suitable to a given 
particular actor, is done apart and away from all 
the actors. The moment the scenarist and director 
leave synopsis and treatment, which only generally 
sketch the outlines of the future characters, and start 
to develop and work out the actual scenario and 
shooting script, they, in fact, take away from the 
actor all chance of choosing his role. 

If only the planned scenarios while still in their 
primary form of synopsis and treatment could be 
spread broadcast among the acting personnel, then 
at last the actors, considering and weighing their 
own possibilities, could express a choice of director 
and scenario, and then, by further contact, have 
the definite possibility of joint creative work. This 
would be the first real step towards setting up a real 
creative collective. 

But the practical solution of this problem will, I 
fear, encounter serious difficulties. The acting staff 
of a given studio is usually in definite degree limited. 
The directorial staff is usually also limited. When 
one proposes a solution envisaging wide use of all 
forces for establishing creative collectives, one should 
probably begin by considering how to overcome 
tendencies towards separation in the various separate 

In my view a film-producing unit should be en- 
titled to claim sovereign and separate status only if 
it has some definite and individual creative ' face, 5 
that is, if its separately welded collectives together 


comprise a collective of higher degree, also welded 
to creative purpose. But we have no such producing 
units. Acting and directorial staffs are distributed 
casually, without any relation to their style of work 
or so-called * school • of art. This being so, pending 
some sort of regrouping on the basis of common 
style or artistic tendency among proposed colla- 
borators, I think we must envisage, as practical 
possibility, exchange on a wide scale of their respec- 
tive creative elements between the various units. 

The wide broadcasting of synopses and basic 
treatments of films planned for production must be 
effected not within the limits of one unit, but among 
several, so that mutual choice of director and actor 
will have the chance to operate under conditions of 
real fairness. 

In direct relationship with all this is the question 
of the so-called * range • of the actor, that is to say, 
the limits of his type, which, in the cinema, are, in 
fact, purely physical, connected with the external 
expressiveness of his acting elements. The possibili- 
ties of changing the physical appearance of the actor 
are far more limited in the cinema than on the stage. 

For purposes of realistic work in film, the possibi- 
lities of artificial make-up entirely disappear; for 
example, it is quite impossible to alter a three- 
dimensional shape with a two-dimensional line. To 
draw or paint the relief of a face, as on the stage, is 
impossible in the cinema because the vacillating 
contrasts of light on movement will invariably expose 
the false immobility of a painted shadow and show it 


up just for what it is—a dirty mark. The painting 
of non-existent relief on a face in the cinema being 
impossible, to be effective it must be constructed 
tri-dimensionally, but even so, such an artificial and 
stuck-on protuberance will cease to be lifelike if it 
exceed a relatively tiny size, for it will fail to take 
part in the live and subtle interplay of the muscular 
system of the human face. 

Make-up is possible on the stage only because the 
relatively constant footlights and stage lighting yield 
no shadow, and the spectator, seated relatively dis- 
tantly, thus fails to remark and be disturbed by its 

Variety in an actor's roles in the cinema derives 
mainly from inner design, from variation in conduct 
in the novel conditions created afresh in each new 
film. In the cinema one and the same actor, with 
face and even character unaltered, can play many 

We know, for example, how Chaplin, always stay- 
ing in the same make-up and always preserving the 
same character, has created a tremendous generic 
image that passes through the whole series of his 

It is in the light of these facts, I maintain, that we 
should study the question of the limits to a given 
individual's acting possibilities in the cinema. 

At this stage, inescapably, the question of the so- 
called c star-system ' comes out into the open. How 
is a * star * made and made use of in the bourgeois 
world ? If an actor has been accepted by the public 


in some film owing to his appearance, owing to his 
manner of acting, this latter being in most cases 
almost a trick, then the producing unit does all in 
its power to preserve, as carefully and rigidly as pos- 
sible, all those properties in the actor that appealed 
to the public, and to adjust to them, by any make- 
shift, any material, so long only as that material is 
slick and catchy. In fact, the ' star system ' means 
no more than that the director presents the c star, 5 in 
his given discovered form, against some background 
dictated by his employers. An example of the kind 
is Adolph Menjou, who acted brilliantly under 
Chaplin's direction. In a series of further, already 
desperately stupid films, mechanically preserving 
unchanged the appearance and general scheme of 
his behaviour, he has gradually become a less and 
less interesting empty doll. 

I think that this method of repetition of appear- 
ance of an actor the public has once liked is neither 
acceptable to us, nor, indeed, is it in general accept- 
able as a form of art. 

The repetition of an actor's appearance on the 
screen in a new film should not be effected simply for 
the sake of showing him once more unaltered in the 
shape the public liked, but in the course of making a 
new step forward on the path of his advance. He 
must somehow further develop the image on which 
he has begun to work, and carry this image through 
a new section of reality abstracted for the purpose. 

Menjou, in contradistinction, has simply been 
shown repeating himself time after time, which has 


meant fundamentally no less than the collapse of his 
talent, because the film has just happened round 
him, instead of himself entering into the film. 

Chaplin manages to preserve ever the same image, 
yet at the same time in each and every film of his he 
interests, because he is ever passing through new 
and still newer cross-sections of reality, thereby each 
time creating a really organically whole work of art. 

A film with a c repeat ' of an actor must represent 
some process in his development, some process 
obedient to laws, transforming the repeat into a step 
on the road towards wider and wider revelation of 
the image he has created. 


Now that I am drawing to a close, I should like to 
say just a few words about my own experiences in 
acting. It occurs to me that in these experiences are 
reflected all the unclarity and confusion about inner 
fundamentals, which are the reason why, to this 
day, the film actor has to all intents and purposes no 
agreed school of acting. My first roles were associ- 
ated with the methods of Kuleshov. The sole and 
only content of play-acting in that school is external 
expression, or treatment of the image only by a 
mechanical sequence of motions selected either by 
the actor or, sometimes, by the director. 

The edited image of the actor on the screen was 
there constructed, exactly similarly, from a number 
of mechanically joined pieces, connected only by a 
temporal composition of schematised movements. 
Even the elements of the close-up, which, one would 
think, would require a greater degree of inner work 
from the actor, were usually restricted to the learning 
by heart of facial movements disintegrated into 
analysed components. Such director's commands 
as : jut out the chin, open the eyes wide, bend or 
raise the head, were a frequent part of the routine 
of the shooting process. 

There used to be a certain amount of talk about 






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• i-H 













































the possibility and necessity for basing all these 
movements on some inner something, though what 
this ' something ' was no one quite knew or at any 
time defined. 

At times, I remember, this 4 something ' was 
merely the satisfaction one experiences at the 
smooth and easy execution of a scheme one has 
memorised. At others one experienced an ecstasy 
difficult to distinguish from the sensation of general 
physical tension derived from consciousness of the 
importance of some deed one is accomplishing. 

This is how I worked both in The Adventure of Mr. 
West and in The Ray of Death. 

I must observe here that a tremendous feature of 
our work was the fact that Kuleshov, who possesses 
immense talent for teaching, did not neglect to steep 
us thoroughly in both scenario and editing work 
and gave me the chance, not only myself to act, but 
also to direct little scenes with other actors. 

The completeness of this embrace of the whole 
process of creating a film on all its sides accustomed 
me to feel myself not only as a being working before 
the camera, but also in the continuity of the future 
images that were to appear as the result of editing. 

I consider that Kuleshov's school, despite all the 
mechanism of his then approach to the actor, was 
immensely helpful to every member of his collective, 
and it is no accident that there emerged from it 
such fine actors as Fogel and Komarov. 

I made an effort in my work at that time to base 
myself on inner mood, and to find some quality 


within myself that would enable me to feel, at the 
moment of shooting, a fully and wholly live being. 
But I had no possibility really to develop this during 
all the time I was with Kuleshov. Only when I 
went to Mezhrabpom and started work on my own 
did I get the chance to approach acting from a new 
angle, though admittedly this was in the course of 
my work as director. But every time I made a 
film, I always tried also to take a small part in it 

I regard as comparatively successful the little piece 
I played in Mother, where I represented an officer, a 
police rat, who came to search the dwelling of Paul. 
I remember that for this role, by habit of my old 
training, I based myself principally on the external 
traits of its image. I began by cutting my hair en 
brosse, grew a moustache, and put on a pair of 
spectacles, which, it seemed to me, by their contrast 
with the military uniform, which always lends a 
certain air of bravado and masculinity to th^ wearer, 
would especially emphasise the weak and degraded 
character of a typical police-officer rat. 

I remember that the only inner mood on which I 
tried to base my acting was one of sour dreariness 
and boredom, such as seemed to me should cause 
the spectator to feel vividly the dourness of police 
mechanism, which impersonally and remorselessly 
mutilates every spark of living thought and feeling. 

I remember that all the work on this tiny part was 
most closely bound up with its editing development. 
The somnolent, bored, and dreary figure of the police 


officer, mainly shown in long shot and medium shot, 
was purposely changed to close-up and big head 
when, in the course of the role, I began to show 
glimpses of interest in the chase as I scented the 

My only big acting job was the role of Fedya in 
The Living Corpse. Here I was not the director. The 
task was big and complex. In every aspect of 
the development of the role the question arose of the 
teleology and directional aim of the image, of its 
place in the film, and its relation to the significance 
of the film as a whole. It must be admitted that 
not one of these questions was adequately solved. 

My work on this film, owing to various attendant 
circumstances, took the form, on the whole, of a 
holiday from directorial work. I gave myself up 
entirely into the hands of the director, consciously 
deciding that I should not, in any given piece of 
film, make any attempt to transcend the limits of 
my own personal appearance and personal character. 

What this meant was that in consequence I sur- 
rendered to the director the task of creating a united 
image. I never thought of the edited image as a 
whole. I had only an idea of the editing treatment 
of the individual pieces. As general linking-up 
element for formation of the whole, I provided my 
own self; in simpler language, I played this man as 

In each individual moment of the acting, by means 
of various methods of strictly individual kind and 
applicable only to myself, I brought myself into a 


mood suited to enable me, in all personal sincerity 
and the unity of my own character, to make the 
various movements and go through the various 
actions required of me by the scenario and director. 

I recall a scene in which, revolver in hand, I stand 
behind a stove, peering round its edge, displaying 
to the spectator the half-crazed face of a man on 
the verge of suicide. 

I remember that, to act this piece, I hid from the 
camera behind the stove and, pressing the revolver 
against my heart, repeated without a break the 
words of Kirillov in Dostoievski's The Demons: " At 
me, at me, at me. . . ." When finally this had 
brought me into an almost fainting condition, I 
peered around the edge. 

I recall another scene typical of the same principle. 
In an empty hall, just before leaving my home and 
abandoning my wife, I take leave of my sister. I 
remember that it was quite easy for me to summon 
up in myself a feeling of extreme care and tenderness 
towards the girl who played the role of the sister. 
She appealed to me in life as a person. To feel that, 
on going away from her for ever, on leaving her 
alone in this empty house, I should call forth from 
myself sorrow and a desire to help her, a caress that 
at the same time would be a parting gesture putting 
her away from me, was simple and easy : it was not 
alien to, but actually accorded easily with, my real- 
life characteristics. 

Speaking in general, my work in The Living Corpse 
was carried out to an extent with considerable and 


profound inner feeling and was heavily charged 
emotionally, but it never gave me the feeling that I 
had it in me to play any other role, one based on an 
image not fully reproducing my own and usual 
character as manifested in life. 

My experience in playing in The Living Corpse can, 
of course, in no way serve as a proper example of 
acting work. 

The inner linkage, the inner organisation of the 
character, was built up not by the path of transmuta- 
tion of self, but by that of direct manifestation of self. 
In each given piece, I remained in the fullest literal 
sense of the word myself. Any element new and 
alien from myself appeared solely as the result of 
editing. In other words, the screen image of Fedya 
appeared solely as the result of dictates laid down 
by the scenario; it was never constructed creatively 
by acting the character. 

I incline to think that the basic and decisive factor 
in this work was precisely my personal indifference 
to the image as a whole, which made me approach 
my work as a mere journey across the film, without 
striving to subordinate my actual self to the teleology 
of the image, which alone can give the actor not 
just the satisfaction that comes from the accomplish- 
ment of a technical task, but the sense of a solution 
of the ideological tasks posed by the film as a whole, 
living, growing, full of content, not only for the 
spectator, but also for the actor as well. 

I hold that, in the present state of our cinematic 
theory and practice, it is still impossible to speak of 


any definite system of work or system of training for 
the actor. Such a system has first to be created, 
and to begin with, as the point from which we must 
depart, we must take the establishment of the indis- 
pensable conditions that provide the possibility of 
organising such systems. 

At this stage all I can do is to limit myself to the 
simple narration of the empirical experiments in 
my own and other people's work. 


i . The new technical basis of cinema (non-station- 
ary camera and microphone) renders not only un- 
necessary but senseless for the actor all the technique 
connected in the theatre with the wide distance 
actually separating the actor from the stationary 
audience. The following are therefore eliminated: 
stage-specialised voice production, theatricalised 
diction, theatricalised gestures, painted features. 

2. In consequence of this the theatrical sense of 
an actor's ' range ' becomes altered. The variety of 
roles he can play in the cinema is dependent : either 
on the variety of characters he can play while pre- 
serving one and the same external appearance 
(Stroheim), or, alternatively, on his development of 
one and the same character throughout a variety of 
circumstances (Chaplin). 

3. Having lost the possibility of creating a ' type ' 
with the aid of theatrical methods: stylised make-up, 
generalised gesture, emphasised voice expression, 
and so forth, the film actor in exchange acquires 
possibilities, inconceivable in the theatre, of closely 
realistic treatment of the image, maximal approach 
in his acting to the actual behaviour of a living man 
in each given circumstance. A ' type ' is created in 
the cinema largely at the expense of the general 



action, at the expense of the wealth of variety of 
human behaviour in various situations. (Compare 
the development of the ' type ' in the novel form and 
in drama — the cinema here is nearer to literature 
than to the theatre.) 

4. From the culture of the stage actor is taken over 
into the cinema everything connected with the pro- 
cess of creating a united image, and its c absorption 9 
by the actor, everything that precedes the search for 
' stage ' and ' theatricalised ' forms for the acting. 
(Of course, in practice no sharp division between 
these two periods exists. A feeling of c stage ■ form 
will always be present with the stage actor, yet it is 
possible to some extent to draw a line.) For this 
reason the Stanislavski school, which emphasises 
(more truly, emphasised) most particularly the 
initial process of deep c absorption ' by the actor of 
the image, even at the expense of the * theatricalisa- 
tion ' of its content, is nearest of all to the film actor. 
The intimacy of acting of the Stanislavski school 
actor, leading sometimes to an overburdening of 
the performance with little-noticed details and 
thus a loss by that acting of theatrical * panache,' 
is inevitably and remarkably developed in the 

5. All the means theatrical culture has created to 
help the actor wholly ' absorb ' an image scattered 
in pieces throughout a play must be taken over into 
cinema practice. In the first rank of importance is 
rehearsal work, developed paramountly along the 
line of creating for the actor every possible condition 


for prolonged, unbroken existence in the image (the 
rehearsal scenario). 

6. The editing treatment of the actor's image 
(composition on the screen of the separately shot 
acting pieces) is in no sense a directorial trick, taking 
the place of acting by the actor. It is a new, power- 
ful, peculiarly cinematic means of transmitting this 
acting. To master it is as important for the film 
actor as it is important for the stage actor to master 
* theatricalisation ■ technique (stage delivery of his 

7. Hence it follows that the culture indispensable 
for the film actor will only attain the necessary 
heights when included in it is profound knowledge 
of the art of editing and its various methods. This 
desideratum has hitherto incorrectly been applied 
only to the director. 

8. The growth of a film actor cannot be separated 
from practical work on his film, and accordingly he 
must be closely linked with it, beginning with the 
final polishing of the scenario in the course of re- 
hearsals and not being discarded from it during the 
period of cutting. 

9. In work in sound films, the actor equipped with 
this culture must strive to find examples of acting 
and its editing that will develop forms of powerful 
impressiveness, such as were found in its day by the 
silent film. He must not yield to the reactionary 
force that tempts both himself and the director — 
adaptation to mechanical use of theatrical methods 
alien to the film.